It’s as inevitable as my cup of coffee in the morning. At some point while talking with someone, the topic of what time we get to work comes up. Then what time we wake up. Then I tell them I get up at 3:30 and the eyes boggle, the mouth drops open, and they look at me with sheer, unbridled terror. I mean, I suspect that’s what it is. I’ve read about this look in books, so it must exist, therefore that must be what it is.
Then I have to launch into why I get up that early. They might want to learn more about my writing, too. But usually the final question is “well what time do you go to sleep?” The answer of course is: early. I wake up early, I go to bed early, and in between I have time to write, work, and get the other particulars of life taken care of. More or less. Less when it comes to housework, but who likes that anyways.
I’ve made writing my priority for “non-work activities.” Granted, the last few weeks have been less than productive. That’s partly because I spent the best hours of the last two works working on revisions to Summer, and the rest of my writing time working on Query letters and how to improve them. I have started work on a new short story in the last few days based on a sentence that got stuck in my head (“Digby rises” is the line… don’t ask me how it got stuck in there, I haven’t the foggiest clue, but it made me picture a middle aged accountant slowly rising into the sky as though gravity no longer holds him down).
If you want to write, you have to prioritize that time. And you have to cling to it hard, make it your own. No, you don’t have to write every day if you don’t want to. Yes, you should, though. Are you training to be a professional, or do you want to remain an amateur your entire life? I’m guessing that, like me, you want writing to be your career. Then you should focus and train on it like any other skill. But you have to organize your free time around it, because the other priorities of life are going to intrude upon your attention.
For me, that meant writing in the morning. When I decided a few years ago to pursue something I had (mostly) given up in my twenties, I already had mornings carved out for my own personal time. I woke early before everyone else and played games or goofed off online. Why not use it for more productive means? It made sense to me, so 4:30 or 5:00 wake up meant sitting down, getting through that first cup, then writing for a while. Over the course of the next few years, from 2011 to 2015, the time shifted (to give myself more) from 4:30, to 4:00, to finally 3:30. It works for me, and yes, it’s a bit insane.
What have I done since 2011? Wrote two complete novels, a dozen plus short stories, and I’m not even counting the erotica I wrote for a few years, which would include another novel-length work plus several dozen short stories. Last year alone I produced nearly 360,000 words of new fiction, mostly fantasy with a little science fiction mixed in. I want more than anything to be able to write full time, so I write as much as I can.
Which is why I feel out of sorts lately. Editing is a different sort of writing that hasn’t stoked the creative juices in the same manner. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s important and builds different skills that also need nourishment, but… I can tell I’m not doing what I need to be doing every day as I move towards my goal. The World War I novel languishes, and I’m daunted by the scope of it. It might be something I put aside for now and focus on something smaller, continuing with the more intimate stories until I’ve achieved some publishing success. I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet, but I do want to get another novel done this year. I might revisit Mirabel and see if I can salvage the first novel, re-write it again, or start a new one of her adventures. I might do something in science fiction that I’ve been thinking about, a novel about slaves in the future, their capture of “the most powerful vessel known to humanity,” their use of it to break the status quo and move humanity in a new direction (and the heavy reliance humanity has on tech, cybernetics and so on… the slaves themselves are split-brained, a requirement due to the government suggesting they suffered from a genetically engineered form of epilepsy, but which was really intentionally done to create a class of people who could be exploited as cheap labor on long-mission mining operations outside the heliopause).
I’ll get back to writing shortly. And I’ll be doing it early, because that’s what I do. I think I’ll focus right now on short stories and the edits for SHADOW of a DOUBT. I’ll probably do what I did last year… wait until later in the summer to pick something to work on, then go to town and put down 100,000 words in a couple of short months. But I want to get Shadow in a place where I feel ready to start submitting it again.
So tomorrow I’ll get up early. I’ve got a plan. I’ve got my goal. And I do what I must to try and reach it. I’d rather try and fail then never have tried. What are you doing to reach YOUR goals tomorrow? Schedule your writing time… then write. It’s the only way to ever get better.