I’ve been writing for a long time. I’ve always struggled with finding time to get my daily pages written. When I was working full-time, I didn’t feel as much pressure to produce because ‘I had a day job’ as a police officer. My days/nights entailed working twelve-hour shifts.
By choice, I worked what would be commonly known as the graveyard shift…except, unlike in the olden days, because of the twelve-hour shifts, my graveyard shift started at 6:00 p.m. and lasted until 6:30 a.m. So, it was understandable that on the days I worked, I probably wouldn’t get any writing done. But I also found that my days off were crammed full of grocery shopping, trips to the cleaners, and the most important trek to the hairdresser to cover the gray roots. You know, regular life.
But early last year I retired from the police department and became a full-time writer. Now what excuse did I have for not cranking out pages? None.
Well, that’s not entirely true. My mother is in an assisted living residence and I go to see her 3-4 days a week. Round trip it’s a 70-mile jaunt. But I don’t miss my visits with my mom unless I physically can’t get there. So far, travel (writing conferences) and having major surgery have been the only reason I’ve missed any visits.
I still have errands to do, and I will say retirement has allowed me a lot more flexibility with those. Even with more time in retirement, I wasn’t producing pages in the quantity that I’d envisioned. I find I’m busier in retirement than when I was working. In part, some of that was because I’d self-published my debut novel, A Dozen Deadly Roses and after the book was up for sale I spent a lot of time doing promotion.
What I found was that I could easily spend 7 – 14 hours a day on the computer, but not really get a lot of writing done. I was constantly trying to whittle away at my email in box that can fill up in the blink of an eye. I was following leads on books reviewers who were willing to read e-books. I was promoting (and goofing around) on Facebook and trying to understand Twitter, Triberr, Linkdin et al. Does any of this sound familiar?
I recently published my second book, A Deadly Blessing. I’m doing some promotional efforts, but really haven’t gotten into full swing with that yet. Instead I’m devoting more time to writing the next book in the series. By accident, I stumbled across a schedule or a system that is working for me.
Before I continue, I’m going to tell you flat out that what I’m doing probably won’t work for most of you. But I compare it to making the decision to self-publish. It’s not necessarily the right choice for everyone. But maybe what I’m doing will get you to think outside the box and look at your schedule and see where you find your best writing time.
This is what I discovered. First, I made a commitment to writing a certain number of words per day. I started out with 500 words per day. That went pretty well so mid-stream in the first week I upped that goal to 1000 words per day.
One day I’d been busy running errands and hadn’t gotten my word count in for the day. I was determined not to fall behind so at 10:00 p.m. sat down to write my pages. I worked until a little after 1:00 a.m. I staggered to bed and got up at 6:00 a.m. the next morning to take care of our animals, get them fed, etc.
I went to visit mom, sent my husband off to work (he works nights) and after he left, I thought I’d take a little nap. I slept for two and a half hours that afternoon and after I woke up, I did a little housework and laundry. When nine o’clock came around, thanks to my nap, I felt pretty good for writing. I sat down and wrote 1500 words. I think I finished up about the same time 1:00 a.m. I’m just beginning my next book and the first pages are always the hardest for me, so it’s slow going.
The next day I took another long nap and then wrote until the wee hours of the morning. The way it’s worked out is that I’m getting about four hours of sleep during the hours of darkness and about 2-3 hours of sleep during the day. I’ve worked as late as 3:00 a.m. (and still gotten up at 6:00 a.m.) but I feel my former years of working the graveyard shift lets me do this without too much trouble.
But this is the real secret of what I’ve learned. You all are in bed late at night and in the early morning hours…yes, even those of you who live on the east coast. You don’t write email, you don’t to post to Facebook and you’re not buying books, so there is no need for me to check my sales numbers. I no longer have those distractions I could rationalize that were necessary and found so irresistible.
Not only was I able to write more, it’s better writing right from the first draft.
How long will this schedule last? I don’t know but it’s working now, so I’m going to use it as long as I can. Like I said, I don’t think this type of schedule is for everyone, but maybe you’ll find inspiration in my process and discover the best writing time for you.
Oh, and one thing I’ve learned: without a doubt I love my afternoon naps!
Until next time,