Striking While the Iron is Hot—by Rosalie Spielman
During a panel last weekend for the Suffolk Mystery Writers Festival, an attendee asked about our writing schedules—did we write at a certain time of day, etc. I have to admit that I didn’t want to answer that question because I don’t really have an answer for it. I mean, no answer other than “no.”
I’m very aware I’m lucky to be able to say I’m a full-time writer. That isn’t because I’m massively successful or have a prolific backlist, but by the choice of having married a career military man. Up until he retired a few years ago, we moved so often that there wasn’t much point to try to have a career. It’s a common issue for military spouses.
Until I had my agent and a contract to write a book, my writing was a side activity. I was at home, dreaming and scribbling away any time the urge to scribble came over me, in between other chores and responsibilities. When I was in the query trenches, I worked on writerly things maybe two to eight hours a week. Now, since my first series received an offer for three books, which I subsequently accepted, my need to put in more hours is non-negotiable. I have one written book to turn in, two books that haven’t been written yet, plus editing on those three and the one that I turned in last month. All to be done by next March.
Add to that the non-scribbling writerly tasks like website maintenance, social media, creating promotional materials—the list is long! I had no idea how much time those would entail on any normal day. And activities ramp up during the book releases.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to be busy. As with many occupations, you have to do the work when it is presented and take advantage of the busy times, because those opportunities could dry up. Like the adage “strike while the iron is hot,” referring to blacksmithing, where the metal is pliable when it is heated, and once it’s cooled, the opportunity to shape the metal has been lost. Just scribbling when the urge to scribble hits isn’t gonna cut it anymore. To take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented, I need to get busy!
I have the time, and the space. I have a dedicated writing office (I feel like I should mention that just in case the IRS is reading this) with doors that close and a device to keep my coffee hot. I can easily lock myself in and ignore the world. But despite my military background, I am not good at sticking to a self-imposed schedule. I’ve attempted to lay out my daily schedule on many occasions, but I have a problem with getting distracted, though not necessarily by unimportant things. What I need to do is announce to the world established writing hours and then stick to them. No appointments, no chores, no errands, no phone, no internet, no non-scribbling writerly tasks.
How do you make and keep a schedule? If you’re a writer, do you have “office hours” that are only for writing? Do you have any advice to share?