Taking Time Off to Write

I’m still finding my way with this writing thing, which means trying to figure out what works for me.  At the beginning of April I took a break from my day job to focus on writing.

It wasn’t just about doing that.  I was also moving and knew my grandpa’s time was limited when I did so.  But, part of my motivation was to be able to focus on my writing for a couple of months and not be brought down or distracted by my work.

Honestly, I think doing so was a good idea, but that it isn’t the best solution for me for my writing.

It turns out life is my biggest distraction from writing.  And being “home” I have far more distractions here than I do when I’m traveling.

I wrote 84,000 words during the two months I was in Prague (and technically available for work although I wasn’t hustling for work) and only 21,531 words the last six weeks I wasn’t working.

To be fair, I was editing both the first and second novels during the last six weeks, which does reduce my word count, but my average hours per week writing/editing were also higher in Prague.

When I was in Prague I wrote the second novel, about a third of the third novel, and a few short stories.  The last six weeks I did two rounds of edits on the first book, one round of edits on the second, and wrote about four short stories.

I made progress.  And I met most of the goals I set for the two months.  But I didn’t make enough progress to justify not working.  I decided I “should” be able to do what I did in the last two months AND work.

Everyone is different.  Each person has to figure out what is optimal for them.  For me, so far, my most productive writing periods have been when I was living elsewhere and had a time offset from my work that allowed me to have a flexible schedule.  (And less of a social life…lunches are a time suck!)

The good thing about this experiment is that it helped me be more at peace with working AND writing.  I don’t think I’ll resent my day job quite as much for taking away my time from writing.

(We’ll see.  I still think I need to find a better long-term solution to that one–the curse of having an area of expertise.)

For now, I think I can balance work and writing and be ok with it.

I’m going on a writing/clear my head road trip starting Monday.  (Assuming life doesn’t interfere in between now and then.)  So, depending on how inclined I am to get on-line wherever I end up each night, I may not be posting much the rest of the month.

(It’s amazing how much fun it can be to buy hiking supplies–I bought a bear bell today so I can scare away grizzlies while hiking.  I didn’t buy the spray, though.  So, if you don’t hear from me by mid-June or so but you do hear about someone getting eaten by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone, assume that was me.)

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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2 Responses to Taking Time Off to Write

  1. “They” say that if you want something done, give it to a busy person. I know I accomplished much more when I was working full time and raising my sons. Is it because we have to, because we are younger and have more energy, or because we make every minute count? I’m not sure. Now that I no longer work full-time, I too find I am more distracted by life. Friends and family think I am always available. And, I find I am writing less then before. Sad but true. I would like to know how full-time writers organize their schedules and productivity.

  2. mhleewriter says:

    My guess is that it’s because we have to get it done. I do much better when I’m juggling eight million different things, because I know I have no room to slack.

    I think Stephen King wrote about how he approaches time management in On Writing. If I recall correctly, he writes new material for a couple hours in the morning and edits for a couple hours in the afternoon.

    I need to develop that same level of discipline. I think it’s tougher now since I have no real deadlines to meet other than the ones I set for myself. I would assume, at least for myself, that if I were under contract I would be more productive because then it would be more of a job or commitment I’d made to someone else that I need to meet.

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