Development diaries, 1-13-2015: How do I take these hours seriously?


Today’s challenge:

I’m starting writing at 11:40. I’ll quit by 2:30. Then it’s a dentist appointment, then pick up the kids, then nighttime routine.

The challenge is not “How will I make quota?” I’m not writing 4600 words in the next three hours. I mean, if it happens, that’s great, but I do plan on eating lunch, and it’s not the kind of thing that would exactly fall out from my writing rates in the last six writing days.

The challenge is: “How do I take these hours seriously?”

I’m in the Princeton Public Library. Michael Swanwick’s The Dragons of Babel is right in my field of view. I’ve got prep work for the new job that I could do, and I just re-downloaded Civ IV a few days ago, and there’s an amazing ice cream place a few blocks away. But it’s a weekday, and I said I would write during the weekdays. And if I get enough words out I can maybe recover. And even if I can’t, the point is that it a word I’ve written is better than a word I haven’t written.

I should be starting now, but since development diaries are part of the work, I’m going to take a couple of minutes to say something related. On a Facebook update announcing this project, a friend posted to say “You should come play during NaNoWriMo!” And I was, of course, all “YEAH!” NaNo would be the perfect way to close out the first part of the War of Songs series; 50,000 words is exactly the target length for The Crescendo, and I’d have a month to do it instead of two weeks.

Here’s the thing, though. In theory, NaNo is 1667 words a day. In practice, though, I probably can’t write that much on weekends; I will still have two kids, they will still be little, &c. So I’ll probably have to wake up early and do lunch breaks and stuff on weekdays. If we’ve got 20 weekdays in November, we’re at 2500 words a day. Take Thanksgiving and the day before and after out, and… that’s 7500 words, divided by the remaining 17 days, that’s about 442 words a day extra… and, adding a bit of padding for safety, we’re at 3000 words a day. Which, at current rates, is something like four hours of work.

I’m actually not doing this to be pessimistic about NaNo. None of the assumptions going into that 3000/day calculation is necessarily set in stone. I could try to get some weekend time to catch up; I could probably write 500 words a day on weekends even when I don’t have any special time, either before the kids get up or after they go to sleep; I could work out arrangements for the days around Thanksgiving. 500 words each Saturday and Sunday buys me 4000 words on the month; maybe I can grab another 4000 words on one Saturday, which gets me to 8000; now we’re at 2500 words for each of the 17 days that isn’t Thanksgiving, and if I can count on 1000 words for each of those days, it’s more like 2300. That’s still three hours of work, but another way of thinking about it is another hour of sleep a night, which for me is huge.

The details aren’t necessarily important—by which I mean, they’re critical, but only to me. The point is that this exercise is already helping me think about how to get a lot of writing done around my life. Thus far, I’ve sort of pantsed it; this worked OK before kids, but for the last few years, it hasn’t.

It was the amorphousness of January that initially led me to lay out my word count quotas and plan my time. But what I hope I’m seeing is a glimmer of the possibilities for a life where I can work for a living, but still write at something like the rate I want to.

11:58. Let’s do this.

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