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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Not Every Day's a Writing Day by Marilyn Levinson

While new writers are encouraged to set up a work schedule and stick to it if they intend to finish a writing project, those of us who write under contract often work under the opposite conditions. We've a manuscript to hand in by a certain date, which often means we hold ourselves obliged to write seven days a week.

Like all good intentions, writing every day sounds noble but proves to be unrealistic. We are people before we are writers, and our lives involve other people and obligations that require time and attention. Life offers up problems and snags, some of them unforeseen.

As I grow older, I find that my daily chores and errands require more time than they used to. As does wading through my email every morning. Add to that the occasional doctor visit or the occasional visit with friends and family members, and before I  know it the day has turned into evening and I'm in no shape to concentrate on my work in progress.

Working daily on one's manuscript (or manuscripts, as the case may be) helps set a routine that moves the process along more smoothly. But while I set out each day, knowing the scene or scenes I'm about to turn into text, I often find myself stopping to research a topic. It might be as minor as checking out lunch menus of a certain type of restaurant, or as complicated as how a town council functions. These can always be incorporated in my writing day.

However, writing a manuscript is not always a linear experience. There have been times when I've found myself having to take my storyline in a somewhat different direction. This requires me to stop writing immediately and return to page one to start making the essential changes that move the new plot along. Only then can I return to writing new pages and completing my manuscript.

We aren't writing robots but human beings with many needs and wants. Sometimes we require a break from work, simply to do something pleasurable like taking a stroll through an arboretum or having a lunch date with a friend. I find this type of mini vacation refreshes my soul and helps put my creative energy back in gear so I'm eager to return to writing.


Annette said...

All of life's events and challenges are fodder for stories. Taking time away gets us out of our heads and into the real world.

Of course, there are still the deadlines, so we can't venture out or away for too long or the book doesn't get written!

Jim Jackson said...

When I was a manager of people, I told them they must take their vacation because it helps them not burn out and makes them more productive in the long run.

I believe the same holds true for authors, but without some corporation saying you have three-weeks vacation each year, we often don't take the time off that will help us in many ways.

Molly MacRae said...

How can we be writers without being people (and all that entails) first? Thanks for a thoughtful post, Marilyn.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I make weekly goals, instead of daily. If life intervenes, I can still complete the week's work on Saturday.

Susan said...

Timely and accurate description, Marilyn. We are, after all, human.

KM Rockwood said...

While we can try to stick to a schedule for writing, we will find that, as with everything, life intervenes. Flexibility is the key to many successes.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Thank you for all your wonderful comments regarding our writing careers and life. I agree with Jim, that we need vacation time to refresh and restore. And what would we be writing about if we remained in front of the computer day in and day out? As Susan said,
"we are, after all, human."

Debra H. Goldstein said...

I so agree. My only problem is getting back to the writing because there are so many other calls on my time. Your post is so true!

Marilyn Levinson said...

Thanks, Debra. Since we're all seasoned writers, we manage to get back on schedule and meet our deadlines.

Anne Louise Bannon said...

The best thing I can do for my work is to walk away from it every so often. I get so much more done when I do my walking thing.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Yes, walks are great. I also get ideas in the shower and early in the morning when I wake up.