I’m all for self-reflection and there’s no better time than a new year to wallow in it. For those who may have noted in the previous years that my personal life seemed to take a backseat in my commentary to my writing life, this year was quite the opposite. My personal life and professional (non-writing) life were quite successful while my writing productivity nosedived. Sure in my personal life there were money issues that many (my wife included) would not consider pleasant, but I’m delusional enough that they didn’t really register in my life except in fewer dinners out and more books from the library instead of the book store.
There’s all sorts of comparisons and rash conclusions I can draw from my limited information, but I think there are a couple of things I noticed that will allow me to make adjustments and achieve a little more balance this year. The major thing of note this past year is that it was the first year both of my kids were fully active. While this took more energy on my part, I was rewarded immensely as I watched their little bodies and attitudes and personalities grow and flourish. It was easy when they were little and Becky or I would hold them on the couch and I could get a good chunk of writing done in the evening, but now they are up and active until 9:30pm-10pm every night and I couldn’t get anything done on my laptop even if I wanted to because they like to crawl up on me and get it all sticky and look for Elmo videos. Because the kids are requiring more of our attention as well, I find myself feeling guilty if I get on the computer to write in those few minutes we have together between the kids going to bed and my own nodding off.
There’s an easy fix to this, and one I know many of you out there have worked through, and it’s obvious that I need to stay up later. I’ve always been one of those people that need at least 8 hours of sleep, but preferable in the 9-10 hour range. Since I have to get up at 6am every morning for work, that puts me at a bed time of between 8pm-10pm which just seems sad for a grown adult. I know there are health problems associated with loss of sleep, but I’ve experienced different problems if I’m not in a writing routine. So I think if I can keep myself up until 11 or 11:30 that will give me enough time to keep up a nice writing pace.
The other thing that killed my productivity is cutting off my Internet connection. I know that sounds like empty justification, but it’s hard to argue with the evidence. Without the internet, I found it hard to even turn my computer on. But worse than that, was the difficulty I had storing and transferring what I wrote. I used to send a copy of everything I wrote immediately to my Gmail account which made for a nice cloud experience where I could access the document on any computer in the house or at my in-laws, but also provided a nice way to track my progress. Instead I was stuck with jump drives which just sucked. My blogging, both here and at Do Some Damage suffered as well.
That, along with Twitter and Facebook used to keep me engaged and energized in the writing community which in turn enhanced my productivity. I’ve noticed that when I’m writing a lot of fiction on a regular basis, I find myself blogging more and posting to Facebook and Twitter more, The reverse has also been true. So while in the short term it seemed like a way to cut costs and distractions in our house, it caused more trouble than it was worth. Even my wife, who is about as internet active as a senior citizen with a pet abacus, found herself complaining about how hard it was to keep track of our bills and finances and such without the Internet. So we’re looking to correct that and get ourselves back on the grid.
So as we close here, let me give you a rundown of what I did last year and what I’d like to do next year. I started the year 2010 off revising MURDER BOY, which I’d completed in October of 2009 right after Holly was born. This revision consisted mostly of deleting and undeleting various passages and changing the tense and POV a hundred different times. A couple months into the year I decided I wanted to write a novella. I got 14k into that before I gave up (the reasons for which you can read here) and went back to revising MB. I did that again for a while, along with writing a couple of short stories for the Do Some Damage anthology and for the Kung-Fu issue of CRIME FACTORY. Then in the summer I spent some time writing a short screenplay and revising a short play, neither of which panned out to any success. Early fall was spent on a brief tangent revising my last PI novel, before I committed to MB again for the rest of year and into 2011.
So with the 14k from the novel, the 7k from the short stories, and the 16k of new work on MURDER BOY gives me about 37k for the whole year or about 100 words a day. That’s sad, pathetic and unacceptable. Reading is also important, and an area in which I also underachieved. Now my records for what I read are mostly from my memory and library records and the occasional blog post about a book I liked and my count is 43. I’m sure I missed a few, along with parts of books I read but never finished and some short stories, but still, I’d like to have read at least a book a week. If I don’t waste my time online and get a good batch of books going, I can easily read 100 pages a day which amounts to about two books a week. That seems a stretch though because of the inevitable reading funk and life emergencies, but I think 75 is a respectable goal so we’ll go with that. Likewise, I know, if given the time and right circumstances, I can write 1000 a day which amounts to 365,000 next year. Again, that seems overly ambitious, and not very necessary. On the other hand, 500 words a day seems like a nice average which comes to 180,000 words for the year. More even than word count though, I have some project goals. I’d like to finish and polish MURDER BOY and get it out for submission. I’d also like to complete at least one draft of a new novel, at least two short stories that I think will bump me into the professional markets, and give the novella another try.
How about you? Goals, thoughts, fears for the next year?