If you’re an aspiring writer, chances are you’re writing ‘on the side’, that is, next to some other demanding thing in your life that takes up way more time than you need it to. It could be the job that pays your sizeable mortgage (if you live in Sydney like me, you’ll no doubt understand), your children or even just the mass of things that come with being alive (grocery shopping, social occasions, chores and so on).
Recently, I blogged about what happens when writing on the side turns into not writing at all. At this stage of my life, I am the perfect definition of a slashie: I work four days per week, I do a little freelance journalism work, a little blogging, a lot of parenting and at the moment, very little creative writing, even though I have a book deal that I hope will one day turn into a book-writing career. But when my book writing – one of the biggest priorities in my slashie life – took a massive hit, I had to re-evaluate the way that I looked at it.
And my answer, was wordsmith lockdown. I’ve used the term before, long long ago, when I was still an aspiring author and when my novel had no prospects of being published. Back then, I had very little demands in life by comparison, and because the publishing deal was so far far away (I still don’t believe that it happened with the ease that it did), sporadic writing was OK.
Now, it’s not OK and it’s definitely unhealthy if I want to make the book writing a regular thing. I realised I needed to commit to it and schedule it the way that I was committed to the other musts in my life.
So I made a deal with my husband: Every weekend, over Saturday and Sunday combined, I would, without fail, get 2-6 hours of solid writing time in the local library, where there were no distractions, no shops, no phone and no family members.
Two weeks in, it’s been one of the best moves I’ve ever made in my life. I’ve since realised that for me at least, the answer to countering a writer’s slump wasn’t sporadic sessions of writing that lasted for hours but didn’t come around again for two months (which is how I tended to write) but continuous bouts of regular writing sessions: constant connections with my characters and their stories.
And this is why, 13 months after penning the first draft, the second draft of my novel is finally (FINALLY!) going somewhere. Of course, part of that had to be letting go of some of the bitterness that accompanied the long breaks taken at both my end and my publishers’. But part of that had to be re-evaluating my strategy: and that meant cutting everything less significant out and prioritising what needed to be paramount. In the process, I also evaluated some of my other approaches, which is why next week, I’ll also be sharing three tips on tackling your macro/structural edits when the process seems like a huge and daunting task.
We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but sometimes there are things that need more than just a fix, and they repair more than just the physical. They heal the wounds wrought out of painstaking efforts, hours of investment, and hopes built on dreams.