I have always found the mechanics of writing fascinating, even before I started to write. Besides wanting to read the work of authors, I am interested to know about the more physical aspects of their writing process. Are they a night owl or early bird? Do they write at night or in the morning? Do they write longhand- or use the computer? What kind of pen or pad they use? Do they have a place, a room they write in? Do they plan and outline in advance or do they just plot things out as they write?
And then comes the question of just how many hours a day they put in. Of course that’s just time spent actually writing. That doesn’t include the time devoted to research, or any other activity other than the actual writing.
There is this common notion that a writer is always working, even when he/she is asleep. That’s when the subconscious mind takes over and after much shifting and rearranging images, ideas and scenes sets the stage for the next day’s work. Hence the idea that the writer is working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
I suppose some of the time I believe this is true, especially when I am working on a new project. A certain part of me however finds this humorously ridiculous. As far as my conscience is concerned, I am only really working if I’m sitting at my desk and turning out pages of finished work. On most days I feel guilty, something tells me that thinking about writing isn’t work, and that research is not work, and proofreading is not work, and talking on the phone about my work is not work, nor are rewriting and editing real work. Unless I can really see my story getting further from the beginning and closer to the end because of what I’m doing, I’m not actually working.
To make my writing life as guilt-free as possible I have discovered a couple of things that I can do.
1) I make writing the first thing I do. For some time now I write directly after my morning coffee, and it’s by far the best system for me. I feel recharged and fresh. But most importantly once I’ve got my day’s work done, I’m free to do as I wish the remainder of the day, without that feeling of guilt distressing me all day long.
2) I try to work even during weekends. Daily production helps me keep from feeling decadent over working a few hours per day. And if I take the day off, I can do it with a clear conscience, after all I’m still working six days a week.
3) I save routine work for later. Like research, reading, and the internet. Things that will still be there when I am done with my day’s writing.
4) Finally, I allow myself to dream and procrastinate and to believe that I am working. And does it matter if it’s work or not?