When I was a copywriter and free lancer I always had a deadline. I wrote copiously, every day (and got paid for it every week or billing cycle). Speeches, ad copy, training materials, contracts… you name it, if it was nonfiction I wrote it. Someone needed those words on time, right away, and my goal was to come through for them.
Retired now from the corporate world, almost every retiree I meet says “How did I find time to work?” We fill our days with all the things we had to neglect when we were juggling jobs and mates and kids and parents and laundry and on and on. When I joined their ranks I still kept writing, out of habit, and for love of the power of the word. I write as a volunteer for various causes, and thank goodness they have their deadlines too for newsletter and newspaper articles, funding grants and more. But when I decided I wanted to write fiction, it was a whole different game.
It took me a while to figure out that I have to prioritize the things that are important to me (duh), and I had to move writing higher up my list. I have some habitual daily routines that evolved over decades, and I just had to make this nonfiction writing without deadlines fit in somewhere. I’ve started my day by walking three miles a day for over thirty years, every day, rain or shine, no matter where I am, all over the world, and I miss less than ten days a year. I’ve gone to the gym three days a week for the last ten years and done yoga twice a week for twenty. All this at the start of my day. And then somewhere during each day I tried to find time to write. It didn’t work too well. But I wanted it to, badly wanted it to. I wanted to write fiction.
I became obsessed with asking every writer I met in writing clubs and critique groups what their writing schedules were. I was discouraged by their responses. Many replied with:
“When I can.” Or “When I feel like it.”
Then I went to my first large writers’ conference in August, Killer Nashville, with some new friends from Sister in Crime. I asked the successfully published writers I met there what their writing schedules were and they ALL said:
“Every day for x hours.” Or “Every day x words.”
I was inspired and motivated. So, since the conference I’ve divided my writing life into two stages:
BKN (Before Killer Nashville) See my personal writing history above.
AKN (After Killer Nashville) Now, writing is the first priority of my day. I used to get up at 4:30 and go to the gym or walk or do yoga; now I get up at 4:30, put on the coffee, turn on the computer, and write. Then I go to the gym, or walk or do yoga. It still feels awkward to break decades of habit, but it also feels right. For me. And, so far, the writing just flows. Can publication be far behind?