Monday, December 6, 2010

Writing. . . It's a Job

Sorry for the prolonged absence, folks, but when NaNo comes around, I'm scarce all around. Even my family doesn't see much of me. And for those who are not familiar with the term NaNo, it's short for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The idea is to write a 50,000 word first draft in 30 days. Which is what inspired this posting.

As October draws to a close, I start seeing postings on Twitter and Facebook about people gearing up for NaNo. I see some published writers stating that they will be participating, while other published authors knock NaNo and see it as some sort of joke. When I questioned one of these authors who spoke negatively of the month-long activity, he said to me that if you are serious about your writing, you should be doing it on a daily basis, not saving all up for a one-month exercise.

He has a point. But to make snide comments and to treat the efforts of those participation with such derision shows a lack of professionalism. And maybe just a little bit if jealousy. But back to his comment: If you are serious about your writing, you should be doing it on a daily basis. Is he right?

Most of the books on writing written by writers state that you should write on a daily basis. Set yourself a daily word goal, set aside a block of time, and write until you meet that goal, even if your don't feel up to it. It sounds like good advice, if you can find a couple of hours in your day in which to meet that goal. Other writers have told me it doesn't matter how much you write, as long as you write every day--again, even if your don't feel up to it. Some days you may only get a couple hundred words down, but there are other days when you just might get a couple thousand down. This also seems like sound advice. But the best advice I ever got was from Hal Bodner, author of Bite Club, In Flesh and Stone, and For Love of the Dead. He told me writing is a job, and just like any job, you are entitled to your weekend, you are entitled to your sick days, your personal days, your holidays, and your vacation. However, if you decide you are going to take a weekend, make sure you only take two days off, then get write back to work. If you decide you are taking a vacation, decide if it's going to be a week, two weeks, etc., and at the end of that time frame, get back to writing. This is what you do; this is your job.

I've tried all of the above, and I find Hal's advice works the best for me. By allowing myself my two days off every week, I find I can approach my writing fresh. If I don't feel like sitting down in front of the computer on a day that I found particularly stressful, I don't feel like I have to add to that stress by forcing out a set word goal, most of which will get deleted the next day because it sounds exactly like what it was -- forced. And I have found that by allowing myself this time, and knowing that there's a scheduled vacation at such and such time, I don't feel like I'm suffering the burnout that I did when I spent months on end writing without a break, even when I didn't feel up to it.

Which ever way you decide to approach your writing sessions is up to you, as long as you keep in mind the goal is the same no matter how you look at it -- to get the words down because writing is, after all, just another job.