Thursday, July 30, 2009

What I Give Up To Write

Yesterday John Scalzi wrote on his blog about the sacrifices, if any, one must make in order to have the free time to write. His advice to one fan was to cut out 1 hour of television, claiming that 1 hour of free writing time can yield at least 250 words a day, if not twice that. And if you do that even just 5 days a week, you can crank out a novel and a half in a year's time.

This is true. I learned that rule from reading Stephen King's educational book On Writing back when I first started to get serious. I figured getting in at least 2 hours a day, or 1,000 words (whichever came first) EVERY DAY of the week would be pretty decent progress.

Problem was, of course, finding those 2 hours.

Since I work a full-time office desk job, and must devote at least 1 hour when I get home to working out, this is trickier to pull off than you'd think. Complicating matters is that I am incapable of writing creatively before noon, so that rules out early morning writing before work.

It therefore became pretty clear to me that something in my life would have to go in order to give me the proper time and solitude I needed to craft fiction. Like Scalzi suggested, the easiest place to look towards as the prime eater of my evening hours was the television. Did I really need it? True, I had grown addicted to several really awesome shows over the years (Battlestar, House, 24, Lost, Survivor, etc.) and could not dream of cutting them off. But then it dawned on me that I had Tivo, and could watch these shows whenever I wanted! Like on weekends. Furthermore, I realized, tv wasn't even all that compelling in the grand scheme of things. Out of writing or tv watching, I get much more fulfillment from writing.

So, yeah, cutting out tv was easy and freed up about 1 hour of writing time for me. Still needed one more to go. And that's where video games came up on the chopping block.

But surely I couldn't cut out gaming? I'd spent 4 years in college without tv, but even my beat-up old 8-bit Nintendo accompanied me to Vermont.

Still, I was adamant that I would place my writing first. So I got rid of video games from my evening post-work pursuits. And, yeah, I now had 2-hours to write (after making and eating dinner, of course) -- but I was miserable! Suddenly without these comforts in my life I felt as if writing was this all-consuming monster demanding more and more of my time. It almost came to the point where writing was now the boring chore.

That's when I learned what most people already know: moderation is the key to life.

Nowadays, my schedule pretty much works like this:

8:30-4:30 - Work.
4:30-5:30 - Commute home.
5:30-6:30 - Exercise.
6:30-7:30 - Game
7:30-9:00 - Make dinner; watch a little tv; spend quality time with wife.
9:00-11:00 - Write!

There's some overlap there among all the categories, but this is pretty much it. Some days, it's all I can do to not come home and immediately jump on the PC and start writing. If I wasn't so dedicated to my workouts, this would be grand. Unfortunately, it makes me more grumpy during my workout, and this is terrible. The hardest part of keeping to a good workout schedule is convincing yourself that you WANT to be there. And of course, after running 4 miles or doing 3 sets of every single weight-training routine, the last thing you want to do is immediately sit before a computer screen and get creative.

But, yeah, I'm happy with this schedule regardless. Those 2 hours at the end of the evening really do add up. And this is not including the 4 or 5 hours I devote to writing on the weekend. It's really quite simple once you dedicate yourself to the fact that you MUST write during those 2 hours, and every day. Because, honestly, how long is 2 hours? It's nothing, really.

So, how busy is your day and how much time do you devote to writing? Where do you find the time? Are you consistent?

These are answers I need to know.


  1. My schedule used to be much busier. But now I'm working on this sustainability stuff - it's still bizzz eeee

    So, I write late at night - like you.

  2. Yay! Because the night time is the right time! :)

    One day, if I ever do end up writing full time, I hope I can transition to writing in the afternoon. It would be a real treat to have my dusk and evening hours free to do other fun things and not feel guilty.

  3. wonderful! i did the same with the debut. BUT you know, i really do find now that im trying to promote ... i didn't have the energy or inclination to write after a full day. i'm glad bubs are in school so i can get those hours in in the morning.

    good for you, david! =D


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