NaNoWriMo is in full swing, which means that I’ve been dutifully locked away behind my laptop every morning for a few hours. All is well so far: I’m a solid 8,684 words into the tale of Beckett Carlson, titled Boredom Springs Eternal, at least for now. But that’s not what this blog post is about, although I’d be lying if I said I’m not pretty proud of my progress so far.
Three days before NaNoWriMo started, I made the decision to revise my daily schedule in order to maximise – or at least drastically increase – my writing output. A big part of the problem with output that I’ve had over the last couple of years since I started writing seriously, has been that I was trying to write at, what I now recognise to be, the wrong time. Basically, what I was doing was completing a full day of work, and then trying to write after that. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this ended up. ‘Patchy’ is the answer. I would have good days, good weeks sometimes, but nothing approaching consistency. Even when I tried writing on my days off, it wasn’t necessarily productive, on account of my brain being firmly in ‘relax and recuperate’ mode, not ‘write coherent words’ mode.
Which brings me to this past week (and one day). My routine is pretty simple: I wake up around 4:50 am or so, get up, shower, get dressed in my work clothes so I don’t have to rush later, make myself a cup of tea, and, from then until I leave for work at 7 am, I’m writing. I listen to heavy music – the last couple of days have been spent indulging my new-found appreciation of classic death metal – mainly for the sensory deprivation it grants; it helps to block out the outside world. That’s it, really. It’s a very simple method, and it is so far paying dividends. Word splits of 1000/1000/1200/1700/1800/1800/1800/1700 or thereabouts would certainly attest to that. On my days off, the schedule is a little more relaxed, in that I wake up around 6 am instead, knowing that I have a lot more time in the day to hit the tentative word count of 1500 words that I am after.
Increased productivity aside, the boon I wasn’t anticipating is that I feel pretty fucking great for the rest of the day. It stands to reason, really. Feeling like you have accomplished something feels good. As a flow on from that, feeling like you’ve accomplished something before you’ve even really started the day feels amazing. My mood has improved drastically, most likely stemming from the knowledge that I have assuaged the internal pressure of being a writer somewhat. Which brings me to the next thing.
In On Writing, which is the main source of inspiration for this newly implemented schedule, Stephen King has a quote along the lines of ‘life is not a support network for art, art is a support network for life’. This had a profound impact on me because when I thought back through the past few years, especially, the times when I’d really been in a rough place, mentally, were all when I was not writing. When I read that line, it was like the penny dropped; I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of it that way before. The last week has definitely been a good indication that this is indeed the case, as I have felt much happier, more content, more ambitious, and most importantly, more human. There’s nothing like pursuing your art to reinforce your connection with humanity, in my eyes.
Here’s to many, many more weeks like this one. If all else fails, at least I can come back and read this blog to remind myself of exactly why I started doing this in the first place:
Because art is a support network for life, not the other way around.