A Day of Fictional Work

Monday's pretty much like this.
Monday’s pretty much like this.

First off – for anyone that missed it, I sold a piece of flash! Go check it out!

Per request, I figured I would share a bit more about my typical work day.  I’ve already given a pretty in-depth look at my writing process (or lack thereof). While my free-form “pantsing off a prompt” style is incredibly unstructured, my daily schedule has at least an illusion of organization.

Still, it’s pretty simple.

First thing, every morning, I acknowledge the fact that I won’t be writing all day. I’ve been working from home for years now whether as a graphic designer or writer and I’ve found something about creative pursuits demands downtime like nobody’s business. So, I don’t actually have any writing on my schedule until 11.

Getting the kid off to school, yard work, sorting through a mountain of laundry, fixing an electrical outlet that nearly burned the house down – working at home is a major distraction. With an office, you can hop in your car, leave your domestic chaos behind and focus on a single task. At home, the insanity always confronts you.

So, my solution has been not to fight it. Just let ‘er finish.

But this time isn’t completely unproductive. What’s unproductive is sitting down and staring at a blank screen. While I’m out raking leaves, or on a jog, I can mull over stories in my head. My mind isn’t very disciplined at these moments – I won’t return from a run and have a story plotted out. However, it gets the creative juices flowing and sometimes sparks serious inspiration. I also do my best to schedule any appointments during this time – doctor, cable repair guy, you name it, so I have less surprises and interruptions in the afternoon.

At 11am, I’ve carved out two hours for short story writing. (Lately though, that two hours has been taken up with Self-Pub education and prep for my novel release in June.) By one, I’m up and taking the dog for his walk. When I get back, I’m probably at my most productive and that’s when novel time is scheduled. A quick break to pick up the kid from school, and then it’s back to the writing until five or six.

When that distraction time isn’t filled by something else, I use it for writing-related activities. Critiquing, answering e-mail, communicating with my virtual office mates through Facebook, Twitter, my blog. Even picking up whatever I’m currently reading and getting through a few chapters. It all sounds like unproductive “non-writing”, but things couldn’t be further from the truth.

Finding and developing a network of writing friends has been a huge boost to my productivity. When you don’t feel alone and isolated in this crazy pursuit, it reminds you how many other people are struggling to make this dream work. It not only gives you “co-workers” to bounce ideas off of and go to for help, but also gives you the chance to assist other writers. This alone has taught me so many things about the craft as to be invaluable. If you are writing completely alone, no matter what the stereotypes say, you’re doing it wrong.

Of course, this afternoon-heavy schedule doesn’t work for everyone. Some people may write better at different times. You need to understand when you are most productive. Me, I can’t be productive with distractions prodding at my brain so I take care of them first and get to business later.

The exception to this pattern and the “let ‘er finish” mantra is Monday. Monday is hard. It is a cold, heartless, bitch of a day that sees all the fun you had the previous weekend and drags you ruthlessly to the keyboard by your ear. On that day, I attack things.

I start with time set aside for business. Yep, writing is a business. Minor bookkeeping mostly if there is any to do. Next, I slip on over to Duotrope and stare my mounting rejections in the face. I search for markets with interesting submission calls or places where some of my indigent stories can find a home. By the time I’m done, I’ve beat back Monday into a respectable retreat and I’m ready to write. Even so, I can’t say it is my most productive day writing, but I get something on the page that I can wave triumphantly in Monday’s face before I run to the basement and have a drink with the janitor.

What about you? Any tricks or scheduling ideas you use to get the Fictional Work flowing?

One thought on “A Day of Fictional Work

  1. Tom Howard

    Dear Russ,

    Thanks for sharing this. I find I do my best plotting right before I fall asleep. If I’m lucky, I remember it the next day. I tend to do the admin stuff around the writing hours, but I do like the Monday is Admin Day idea because sometimes the admin overtakes the writing completely.

    I totally agree about the writing friends thing. I’m off to a new crit group christening tonight just to help them get their feet wet. I’ve been turning people away from our group as we’ve twenty signed up and about 10 who attend regularly, so it will be nice to point them somewhere else. They’re using the Clarion rules which are similar to ours (except for the teddy bear). I do like the three minute time limit.

    http://kentbrewster.com/code-review-using-the-clarion-method/

    But, I’ve been thinking of inviting a couple friends to start a writer’s lunch one day a week or maybe a breakfast. I feel the need to discuss more than the stories themselves. I’m currently trying to wrestle the “show vs tell” demon as I’ve gotten a couple critiques from editors saying “we would totally buy this if it didn’t have so much telling.” I’m a little unclear on the concept but trying to research as much as I can about it. You pointed out that I do a lot of it in my novel and you’re absolutely right. But I’m struggling trying to fix it. With the short stories, I’m trying to make them more showy and less telly. We’ll see how it works. If it was easy, anyone could do it, right?

    Thanks again for sharing your schedule. It seems to work, and I’m going to steal some of your ideas. Keep up the good work and the flash was very atmospheric and suspenseful. Good job.

    I can’t not write,

    Tom

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