As some of you might remember, I randomly decided to come to Prague for two months. Because, well, why not? I had nowhere to live having sold my house and been rejected by my country of choice, and work was looking slow and didn’t need to be done from one particular location. So, I figured I’d go somewhere I’d never been before.
Overall, I think it’s been a success.
[Note: The rest of this post is about me, me, and me. So, if you're looking for valuable writing advice, you may just want to skip this one.]
From a writing standpoint, I managed to write 84,000 words, including the first draft of a novel and five new short stories, two of which I think are my best by far. (Both of those had been percolating for quite some time. I think I wrote the first drafts back in May of last year.)
Also, during my train rides, I came up with at least one new short story idea and was able to put about 5,000 words around another one that I’d had in the back of my mind for about six months.
Travel-wise also a success. I made it to Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and the UK while I was here. Basically, every other weekend I went somewhere. (Although it played havoc on my writing. Each trip I wrote less on the trip and took more time to get back to writing.)
Paying work-wise pretty much a bust. Hence the reason I was able to write so much. But I’m pretty sure it would’ve been a bust wherever I was, so better to be here than “home.”
Socially a bust. But that’s because I’m anti-social. So, no matter where I am, it would’ve likely been a bust. A bit more of a struggle here since, well, I don’t speak Czech. Actually, it’s almost worse. I speak enough to say I don’t speak it, but I must pronounce it really well because people then respond to me in Czech with things like, “Well, then what do you speak?” (Which I can manage to figure out about three minutes after the conversation has ended…)
Food-wise. Neutral. I cooked for myself 95% of the time. Good product and prices. Bought one piece of organ meat that I had not intended to buy. Ugh. Got hosed by one food vendor in Old Town Square whose prices looked reasonable until you realize he sells by weight and he dishes up a serving four times the size he lists on his sign. (Ass.) Had many a good crepe from a little stand tucked away by a church. Discovered the joys of Milka singles. Discovered Bernard Cerny beer. (Probably gained ten pounds, but who’s here to see?)
Fortunately, I had Internet the whole time. Allowed me to Skype and e-mail, because I do in fact need some social interaction.
Also allowed me to download far more TV and music from iTunes than I should have. I managed to watch Downton Abbey, Homeland, and Breaking Bad. Also had brought Scandal and Game of Thrones with me. Which is good, because the only non-news English language programming I could find was some Israeli(?) movie channel that showed sub-titled American movies. (And weird ones at that.)
So, would I recommend a similar approach to another writer who wants to get away from it all and write for a bit? Well, it helps that I have no commitments to living, breathing beings (family, dogs, cats). And, if you’re going to plop yourself down in another city, state, or country for two months, I think you either have to be (a) incredibly social and make friends easily or (b) incredibly antisocial and live in your own head. Otherwise, it would be easy to feel lonely and depressed.
For me, this was fantastic because I didn’t have all those little family and friend obligations that suck up time. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and friends. But when I’m home I’ll go to my mom’s for dinner at least once a week. Well, that requires stopping what I’m doing by a set time, half an hour drive there, a couple hours there, half an hour drive back. It’s probably four hours spent by the time I’m done. At 1,500 words an hour, that’s 6,000 words. (Not that I ever write that much in a day or at one time…)
My grandma also has this weird instinct for calling whenever I’m writing, which breaks my flow. I write in chapters or scenes, so, when I sit down, I have 1,200 words that need to be transferred to the page. Hard to do when someone calls you at word 432.
Now, like I said, I don’t write for four hours on any day. Certainly not in one solid chunk. And I’ve only had one almost 6,000 word day so far. But, when I’m home I need to be more disciplined about when I write due to all those “distractions.” Here, I can write whenever inspiration strikes. For example:
This was my most productive day (5,984 words):1:45 pm – 3 pm – Submit three short stories 4:30 pm – 5:25 pm – write 1,322 words on Story A 7 pm – 8:45 pm – write 3,858 words on Story B 11 pm – 11:30 pm – write 804 words on Novel A
This was one of those days when inspiration kept bugging me:5:25 pm – 6:05 pm – write 906 words on Novel B 9 pm – 10 pm – write 1,478 words on Novel B 11:40 pm – 12:30 am – story notes and write 665 words on Novel A 2:25 am – 2:50 am – write 888 words on Novel A
I had other days where I wrote something at 9 am. Something else at 4 pm. And then was up at 1 am writing another piece. Which is why, ideally, some day it would be great to just be a novelist and not have to worry about other paying work, which is the biggest time suck and the key reason being here was so great. I didn’t have to worry about work needing me until 3 pm each day. So, I had most of a day to write before I had to worry about checking e-mails, etc.
So, there you have it. I’m glad I did it. I’ll probably not be able to do this again for at least six months. I have that gut feel that I need to be near family for a bit. People getting old and all…I want to be able to walk my grandpa a couple times a week now that he’s on oxygen. Plus, my boss/client might just appreciate me being more available for assignments that do require my presence. And my bank account might appreciate that, too. Damned money. You earn it and then you have to spend it and then you have to earn more…such a buzzkill.
Oh, and for anyone who is randomly interested. I took one of those Meyers-Briggs type tests yesterday and it said I’m an INFP. Although, somewhat close to being an INFJ. (From what I recall, I’m usually right there on the line on two of the dimensions. Probably explains a lot…not exactly common types.)
Funny. I just looked up INFPs on Wikipedia and it said that they think George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were both INFPs. And here I keep thinking that first novel is along the lines of some of their works. (Although, so not as good, obviously. Just similar societal themes.) Hmm.
(Too bad you can’t write a query like that. “But, but, I’m the same personality type as other successful writers…so, you know, obviously? No? Not buying it. Damn.”)