Mark Terry

Friday, January 15, 2010

Finding The Time

January 15, 2010
This may sound surprising, but as a full-time freelancer, sometimes it's hard to find the time to work on fiction. It's the Return-On-Investment factor, by and large; I have deadlines sooner, more pressing, and more lucrative than my fiction work a lot of times, so I try to prioritize and sometimes fiction really gets squeezed. But I try to fit some time in, even if it's in the evening after dinner.

I recently took on a big, important project with a short timetable, but I definitely want to keep the momentum up on two novels I'm working on (and I need to finish some edits on Valley of the Shadows soon). Today I dropped off the boys at school, found myself slightly ahead of schedule, so I decided to give myself 30 minutes on the laptop working on one of the novels. So from 7:30 to 8:00 I worked on fiction.

Sometimes I'll give it an hour early in the day, occasionally after lunch, sometimes at the end of the day, but this new project and several ongoing projects are forcing me to be more organized about how I do things, so that's what I did today.

When I was a full-time employee at Henry Ford Hospital I typically did my writing at night after dinner and/or spending time with the family. Sometimes it would be 9:30 or 10:00 and I wouldn't feel like writing, but I'd tell myself to sit down and just write a page. Often I ended up writing more, but I knew that if I would just sit my ass down and turn on the computer, I'd get through the page in very little time at all. The bulk of The Devil's Pitchfork was actually written long-hand on yellow legal pads during my lunch break when I worked at the hospital.

So my question to you, both full-time writers and those with "day jobs," is: how and when do you get your fiction writing done?

Mark Terry


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I have to get up at 5:00 for Oldest Son to catch his commuter bus. So I write before Demon Baby wakes up (about 8:30). I rarely write at night because with four kids, by then, I just want to crawl in bed and crash. I also--and I've blogged before about it, so I won't go on and on--have eliminated as much B.S. as possible from my life. So I will be teaching ESL once a week, and I have other volunteer things I do, but I don't watch "mindless" TV (i.e., just channel surfing). I don't answer my phone EVER (if you want me, email me and I will then look for your call and pick up). I don't gab with my neighbors. I don't . . . . you get the idea. I eliminated time-sucks that weren't important to me from my life.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I'm OK about the time-sucks of that sort (there are folks at the gym that want to talk and talk and talk and not exercise, and I try to stay away from them unless they can talk and exercise at the same time), but there are some Internet things that I struggle with.

5:52 AM  
Blogger Lt. Cccyxx said...

Mostly marathon sessions on weekends and vacation days but I like to also try to get an hour or two in a couple of nights a week. Recently I've taken to staying late at work one night a week and, after work is over, switching to working on my stuff for a while. There are minimal distractions (except the internet) here at work, and once I lose momentum I just go home. Like Erica, I've also taken steps to eliminate unnecessary obligations and distractions - haven't had a TV at home for going on eight years now. The big time suck that makes me cry is my commute - more than an hour and a half roundtrip each day. I ride the train for most of it but can't read or write on the train - I get sick. The best I can do is think about my projects...and I try to.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yeah, when I worked at the hospital I had a long commute in the car, typically a round-trip of 2 to 2.5 hours a day. Time SUCK indeed. Maybe you should get a dictaphone and talk into it on the train (that ought to scare the other passengers, some guy muttering into a dictaphone). Dragon has a free dictation app for the iPhone, although it only allows you to work in 30-second chunks.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

Sometimes it would be 9:30 or 10:00 and I wouldn't feel like writing, but I'd tell myself to sit down and just write a page.

Some of the best and most prolific work I've done was when I least felt like doing it. The trick is just to turn on the computer.

7:07 AM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

On bad days, I put locks on the internet... I use LeechBlock and Temptation Blocker to keep me on task and control the internet I "consume." I use a timer like Focus Booster, where it will time 50 minutes work then 10 minutes break, rinse and repeat.

I also try an easy "lead-in" activity. Writing is hard, especially focus- and attention- and mind-wise, at least for me. So I need something mindless and easy to get me started, sort of like how I loved to start practicing with scales. So I select one book a month to type out a bit of each day. It helps me understand it better, gets me going in the typing sentences mode, gets my creative juices going. Then generally I start writing.

I work better in blocks. Some people work better doing a little of everything, every day. I work better if I do one thing each day, or at least, large blocks. I can also focus better before noon. If my ADD is going through a really bad stage, I'll get up at 4:30, when I'm too tired to be distracted. (I hate doing that.)

Oh, and I separate everything into easy-to-focus activities and hard-to-focus activities. So writing always gets prime time: between 9am-noon, and everything else gets the not-so-great hours.

Forgive me for going on forever, LOL. Struggling with ADD means this is something I've given lots of thought to, LOL!

9:07 AM  
Blogger Travis Erwin said...

I keep a notebook open on my toolbox at work and hand write bits and pieces as the day goes on. I nearly always have dialogue or plot situation running through my head so writing them down frees me to go on to the next scene.

These are rough sentences or mere idea and at night after the kids are in bed I type the days work up.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I know exactly what you mean. And today I was thinking it had been a long time since I told myself, "You've got 30 minutes to write then you have to quit and do something else. Go!" And what happened to me was I booted up the laptop, didn't hit email or the Internet, and jumped exactly into where I had left off before and whipped through about 3 pages, completing a scene I hadn't been sure what to do with. And, I might add, came out in an unexpected way that I'm pleased with. There might be some real pluses to putting my muse on a timer.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

My problems with lead-in activities (and I have many, including blogs, Facebook, email, etc) is I can drag those out forever.

I think the Internet has made us all ADD.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

That's sort of what I did when I was working at the hospital tied down to a desk and a microscope. I had a notepad in my top drawer and periodically I'd open it up and scrawl ideas or bits of dialogue or plot points. I think it kept my sanity there, too.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I work best if I'm concentrating on one sort of project at a time so I try to schedule my legal writing assignments to leave occasional weeks I can devote entirely to fiction. When I try to write fiction while doing legal writing, it doesn't help the legal writing either.

6:09 PM  

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