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DoctorJest
(@doctorjest)
Silver Member
Posts: 285

Here's one that isn't exactly technique, but I suspect is definitely craft.

Over the last few years, I've found myself fighting to try and establish any kind of routine that can help me click--something that I can set aside, a window that will work well for writing. I managed to finally find a rhythm that was working for me just before COVID, and then as soon as the pandemic hit, my routine was thrown sideways and everything went out the window again. It seems that for every time I'm able to find and pin down some kind of routine for writing in my life, something else comes barging into it out of left-field and throws my whole plan into total disarray.

This is a problem I've had since being young. I've learned better to cope with it, to structure my time in such a way that I focus better on my work, and to accomplish far more in my divided time than younger me would have managed (even though I do envy younger me's much greater time freedom, and feel that he really should have made better use of it than he did--hands up anyone who can relate to that one). But it takes me a lot of effort to really figure out and establish something that works, and so when it gets thrown sideways like this, it takes me more time again to figure out the new situation, establish a new routine, and then try to work up something around it--and then inevitably, it gets shunted sideways again. I've had some periods in the past where my schedule has managed to remain stable for as much as a solid year, but that's rare.

So I'm curious to know how other people manage to structure and maintain a specific schedule, and specifically if they have any tools that help them to do so around shifting schedules and priorities? I've been frustrated by how much this specific issue has interfered with my writing, and I know that if I'd been able to more fluidly adapt my time to fit around things like this, I would have been a much more productive writer than I've managed to be.    

R: 0 / HM: 8 / SHM: 3 / SF: 0 / F: 1
Currently in for Q2.V38 / Q3.V38 in final revisions / Q4.V38 in flux (3 possibles, all complete)
Revised SHM ('Ashwright') at PodCastle
Revised HM ('The Winds of the Mind') forthcoming at Abyss and Apex, ~October 2023

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Topic starter Posted : May 12, 2021 10:52 am
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Dustin Adams
(@axeminister)
Gold Member
Posts: 972

I write early in the morning, with coffee and music and no outside interruptions after a night's sleep. For me, this was disrupted by politics and urgently checking Twitter when I woke up to see what might have broken overnight. But as long as I have a project, I am able to set the alarm, wake up, go to my established writing spot, and butt-in-chair.

Getting to that point was a challenge, but I knew that's what I needed, so I kept hammering at it until it was done.

Writing spot. Goal board on the wall. Separate laptop (with separate keyboard) set up with no distractions other than the forums and e-mail.

Oh, and read the book Atomic Habits. Just as a matter of course. 😉

Some folks move around, but given I get 60 - 90 minutes a day before everyone is awake and hungry, I can stay planted in my spot and be as productive as possible for that time. Words come slowly, but like a glacier, I can move mountains that way.

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Posted : May 13, 2021 6:21 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
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Posts: 2084

@axeminister. Great system here. I also have purchased Atomic Habits, which I know has the principle I teach of visualizing the writer you wish to be, and then write down what you believe their habits are that they had to do to get there, and start doing them.

I know this book will change my life. One day I’ll quit putting it off and read it. giggle  

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Posted : May 13, 2021 8:40 am
DoctorJest
(@doctorjest)
Silver Member
Posts: 285
Posted by: @axeminister

I write early in the morning, with coffee and music and no outside interruptions after a night's sleep. For me, this was disrupted by politics and urgently checking Twitter when I woke up to see what might have broken overnight. But as long as I have a project, I am able to set the alarm, wake up, go to my established writing spot, and butt-in-chair.

Getting to that point was a challenge, but I knew that's what I needed, so I kept hammering at it until it was done.

Writing spot. Goal board on the wall. Separate laptop (with separate keyboard) set up with no distractions other than the forums and e-mail.

Oh, and read the book Atomic Habits. Just as a matter of course. 😉

Some folks move around, but given I get 60 - 90 minutes a day before everyone is awake and hungry, I can stay planted in my spot and be as productive as possible for that time. Words come slowly, but like a glacier, I can move mountains that way.

I tried doing something much the same a while ago, as I'd heard a lot about authors using the early part of their day to write, but I found that I'm never happy with my results when I try that. For whatever reason, my work comes out stilted, and even when it does flow, I'm rarely pleased with what I've managed to accomplish.

There is value to setting aside a slot, however, and I think that's what I need to work on with this. What was working for me pre-COVID was a kind of brief session early in the morning, not to actually write, but to think about the project I'm on and consider what I want to write later in the day. Then I would just go through my day with that in mind, not really focusing on it all that hard, and in the evening I'd drop in and do the actual writing.

Right now, evenings would be no-go for me--and that disruption threw me out a lot more than I expected. When I tried to simply re-establish it, it didn't take at all well, likely because of the change in circumstances. But I'm something of a night-owl, and I've often been able to work or create well late, so I'm considering doing something similar to what you have, only setting aside perhaps 90 minutes at the end of my day, maybe a little more than that, rather than doing that in the morning. I tried giving my writing that window last night, and it felt good to me.

Perhaps that's a part of it, too--just finding a piece in my day that isn't so readily disrupted by outside forces. And, maybe too, being willing to find a situation in which the outside forces are somewhat more forgiving or considerate than they have been lately! Not that I think COVID or similar will ever bend to my will, but I think that a late-night window may be more resilient, given the realities of my life as it is at the moment. And, hopefully, through any changes that happen to it. 

Addendum:
I haven't read Atomic Habits, but my wife has, so I get to absorb some of it through osmosis. I've found that some of it was helpful for other little parts of my life, though the few times I tried to make them stick with my writing, I kept finding that my routine was shifting, and the anchors I'd tried to use would no longer quite hold. There were times in my life when it would have worked a lot better, though, and those times may yet return!

R: 0 / HM: 8 / SHM: 3 / SF: 0 / F: 1
Currently in for Q2.V38 / Q3.V38 in final revisions / Q4.V38 in flux (3 possibles, all complete)
Revised SHM ('Ashwright') at PodCastle
Revised HM ('The Winds of the Mind') forthcoming at Abyss and Apex, ~October 2023

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Topic starter Posted : May 13, 2021 1:28 pm
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Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Gold Star Member
Posts: 1055

Carving out a consistent writing time apparently works wonders for me, when I can swing it. Unfortunately, that time is governed by toddler naps in my case. We managed to synchronize naptimes in February of 2020--my husband did it by accident the week I was at Superstars, and it was glorious serendipity. I had somewhere between four and six months of two-nap days before I had to shift, and it was the most productive I've been with my writing in years.

And then the twins went from two naps to one somewhere between June and August (the actual switch happened in mid to late August, but the groundwork started getting laid in June), and I just... couldn't rebalance. It took until April of this year for me to both figure out how to swing a one-nap day and have the energy to put that time toward writing. (The key was apparently making sure they go down for that one nap later in the day, when they'll sleep longer more consistently, although I can't guarantee that would be the key for everyone.)

I'm still not as consistent as I was this time last gear, but I have semi-regular creative time again (when I don't accidentally take naps myself).

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, ?, ?
Ticknor Tales

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Posted : May 14, 2021 5:05 am
DoctorJest
(@doctorjest)
Silver Member
Posts: 285
Posted by: @disgruntledpeony

Carving out a consistent writing time apparently works wonders for me, when I can swing it. Unfortunately, that time is governed by toddler naps in my case. We managed to synchronize naptimes in February of 2020--my husband did it by accident the week I was at Superstars, and it was glorious serendipity. I had somewhere between four and six months of two-nap days before I had to shift, and it was the most productive I've been with my writing in years.

And then the twins went from two naps to one somewhere between June and August (the actual switch happened in mid to late August, but the groundwork started getting laid in June), and I just... couldn't rebalance. It took until April of this year for me to both figure out how to swing a one-nap day and have the energy to put that time toward writing. (The key was apparently making sure they go down for that one nap later in the day, when they'll sleep longer more consistently, although I can't guarantee that would be the key for everyone.)

I'm still not as consistent as I was this time last gear, but I have semi-regular creative time again (when I don't accidentally take naps myself).

Oh my lord, I have no idea how I would deal with small children interfering with my time. I struggle with things I have significant degrees of control over. Even setting that part aside, there is a serious risk of me thinking that this small human is more interesting than my writing anyway, at least for a considerable length of time.

I did manage to successfully set aside a slot of ninety minutes yesterday night, which was enough for me to lay down a couple of thousand words--I'm going to keep trying to protect that little window of time and spend it well. I miss the days when I had freedom enough to knock out fifteen thousand over a weekend, but I think I probably write better when I work in these pockets anyway.

R: 0 / HM: 8 / SHM: 3 / SF: 0 / F: 1
Currently in for Q2.V38 / Q3.V38 in final revisions / Q4.V38 in flux (3 possibles, all complete)
Revised SHM ('Ashwright') at PodCastle
Revised HM ('The Winds of the Mind') forthcoming at Abyss and Apex, ~October 2023

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Topic starter Posted : May 14, 2021 12:49 pm
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Gold Star Member
Posts: 1055
Posted by: @doctorjest
Posted by: @disgruntledpeony

Carving out a consistent writing time apparently works wonders for me, when I can swing it. Unfortunately, that time is governed by toddler naps in my case. We managed to synchronize naptimes in February of 2020--my husband did it by accident the week I was at Superstars, and it was glorious serendipity. I had somewhere between four and six months of two-nap days before I had to shift, and it was the most productive I've been with my writing in years.

And then the twins went from two naps to one somewhere between June and August (the actual switch happened in mid to late August, but the groundwork started getting laid in June), and I just... couldn't rebalance. It took until April of this year for me to both figure out how to swing a one-nap day and have the energy to put that time toward writing. (The key was apparently making sure they go down for that one nap later in the day, when they'll sleep longer more consistently, although I can't guarantee that would be the key for everyone.)

I'm still not as consistent as I was this time last gear, but I have semi-regular creative time again (when I don't accidentally take naps myself).

Oh my lord, I have no idea how I would deal with small children interfering with my time. I struggle with things I have significant degrees of control over. Even setting that part aside, there is a serious risk of me thinking that this small human is more interesting than my writing anyway, at least for a considerable length of time.

I did manage to successfully set aside a slot of ninety minutes yesterday night, which was enough for me to lay down a couple of thousand words--I'm going to keep trying to protect that little window of time and spend it well. I miss the days when I had freedom enough to knock out fifteen thousand over a weekend, but I think I probably write better when I work in these pockets anyway.

For me, it's an escape as much as anything. There's not exactly been a vacation from parenting lately, and it's a 24/7 kind of job. My toddlers are adorable, but they can also be little emotional terrorists. (The temper tantrums are getting easier to manage as they learn more words--most of the time they just want to be able to communicate and be understood. I'm waiting for the willful dumping foods and liquids on floors/in hair to stop, though, because food and water messes sometimes trigger severe emotional responses in me for reasons I can't always easily discern. It's worst for me when they dump liquids on their board books or other similarly sensitive materials, but that's understandable IMO. I just don't deal well with those kind of messes, and this has been true my entire life.)

A couple thousand words every night averages out to about the same as 15k over a weekend, so if you can keep that pace up it sounds like you might be be on a decent track. grinning I find myself ogling the calendar about three and a half years from now when my kids are old enough to enter the school system and I can take a crack at full-time writing. After those four golden writing months in 2020, I feel like I have a solid idea of how to manage that at least semi-effectively.

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, ?, ?
Ticknor Tales

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Posted : May 14, 2021 1:36 pm
Donovan Cedars
(@derbestin)
Active Member
Posts: 17

Consistency in writing has always been my Kryptonite. I'll go for a few days diligently writing for hours on end, then burn myself out and not open the doc for weeks on end. The Pomodoro technique has been a saving grace for me lately; even on the busiest days, I can usually do at least one 25 min word-sprint, and it has made all the difference. 

I've heard it said that the moment you leave your story, it begins to 'rust.' If you come back to it within a few hours, no harm done; the tarnish wipes right off and you're back into the groove. But go for more than a few days and it takes much longer to get everything running again. More than a month and the story locks up tight; trying to resume at that point can be harder than just starting something else. It certainly rings true to me; I have a whole folder brimming with 'rusted' stories that have genuinely decent premises, but were foolishly allowed to loose momentum.

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Posted : May 14, 2021 4:43 pm
DoctorJest
(@doctorjest)
Silver Member
Posts: 285
Posted by: @disgruntledpeony

A couple thousand words every night averages out to about the same as 15k over a weekend, so if you can keep that pace up it sounds like you might be be on a decent track. grinning I find myself ogling the calendar about three and a half years from now when my kids are old enough to enter the school system and I can take a crack at full-time writing. After those four golden writing months in 2020, I feel like I have a solid idea of how to manage that at least semi-effectively.

It's proven effective, too--although it varies, across four days recently, I laid down a little over eight thousand words. I don't exactly know how to count edits against this counting, or sectional rewrites, but it feels like it has really clicked for me.

Now, next week, I get to test and see how this fits in alongside an actual productive work-day, rather than busy vacation days and weekends. I remain determined to try and make it stick, and hopeful that it will--it feels like this pace of writing works very well for me, not least because it's somewhere around the 2000 word mark where I'm finding I need to pause and think carefully before taking the next step. I also have designs on possible changes to my lifestyle that may benefit my writing down the line, but--for now, at least--those are all very open-ended. Besides, if I can make something work in what feels like a bad situation, then hopefully it'd only be better in a good one.

(Either that, or the sudden surprisingly good situation would throw me for a loop. Here's to trying not to let that happen, either...)

R: 0 / HM: 8 / SHM: 3 / SF: 0 / F: 1
Currently in for Q2.V38 / Q3.V38 in final revisions / Q4.V38 in flux (3 possibles, all complete)
Revised SHM ('Ashwright') at PodCastle
Revised HM ('The Winds of the Mind') forthcoming at Abyss and Apex, ~October 2023

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Topic starter Posted : May 16, 2021 11:08 pm
David Hankins
(@lost_bard)
Advanced Member
Posts: 33

@derbestin Oh, goodness, I hope my story doesn't rust! I was super excited about my short story for Q2, so I started filling it out as a full-length novel. I got about half-way through my first draft (40K words) when I realized that I needed to focus on my Q3 story or I wouldn't finish it on time. I haven't touched the novel in over a month now (sounds of rusty gears creaking to a halt filled the silence and our hero frowned in concern). 

I also have a hard time carving out consistent time, and often the time I get is limited to 20-30 minutes until a small human or some chore suddenly demands my attention. The other evening my wife gave me about two hours of chore-free/child-free time and I simply flew through the end of my Q3 draft. Probably the best writing times I've had were when I've had the weekend or evening to myself, but they aren't consistent and it's always a challenge to balance my work/home/writing life. As much as I like writing, I don't want to do it at the expense of family time. Now at the expense of work time, that's another matter.

grinning  

Prioritizing has always been tough for me. What to drop for writing today? Exercise? (nope, not 21 anymore) Dishes/housework? (nope, can't focus in a mess), home-improvements? (well, maybe, but that bathroom really does need painting) . . . and on the never-ending list goes. 

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Posted : May 20, 2021 12:16 pm
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