Tag Archives: writing

Finding Productivity: Routine and Coffee

Routine \rü-’tēn\ : a sequence of actions regularly followed

Nothing spells writing success like routine. At least when it comes to the only part authors have any real control over: the writing itself.

Over the past week or so I’ve been in search of my self-discipline. And I think I found it, somewhere at the back of my brain and slightly to the left, among the mismatched and dirty socks. I’m now dedicating several hours each weekday to working on my new story. The word count goal is loose; I’m satisfied with anything from 500 to 1000 words per day.

Typically, I’ve done all my creative writing at the desktop in my home office. But when I lost my job — and my company laptop — I bought a personal laptop. Now I’m donning my metaphorical writing hat and becoming a writer-in-a-coffee-shop cliché. If it was good enough for J.K. Rowling, it’s good enough for me.

My walk to the coffee shop.

My walk to the coffee shop.

The local coffee emporium, which shall remain nameless but it charges extortionate prices and rhymes with Fartruck’s, is a 20-minute walk. The walk alone is worth it. Behind my house is the world’s largest publicly owned greenbelt: 200 square kilometres of protected forest full of trees, walking paths, and every creature this area has to offer, from wild turkeys, rabbits and skunks to coyotes, deer and porcupines. In the middle of a weekday afternoon, heading down the main gravel path, which was once a railway line, is downright tranquil. Fresh air, exercise and the space and silence to think about my characters and their world. Perfect.

Once at the coffee shop, a trusty vanilla latte by my side, I fire up my laptop and log onto the rather excellent Wi-Fi.

In an interesting, perhaps even prophetic, turn of events, I don’t have access to social media on my laptop. Right around the time I bought it, my Instagram account got hacked. How do I know? A friend texted me, and then my 19-year-old son came thundering up from the basement wondering why I’d just posted five photos of women wearing nothing more than three leather belts and a smile. Yikes!!

Immediately, I called my IT department/husband, which got to work trying to fix the issue. Before I could say son, I’ve been hacked, my husband had changed the password on every one of my social media accounts, including my email. The passwords he chose are 20 characters long and include a capital letter, a symbol, a punctuation mark, a sonnet and my left kidney. I keyed these all into my iPhone and my desktop but not my laptop, purely out of laziness. But now I’m finding this is really helping my word count. I can’t open any social media on my computer while I’m working on my novel at the Fartruck’s.

On fair days, I walk; on rainy days, I drive; on lazy days, I go upstairs to my home office. But every day I write. Some days are more productive than others, of course, but this new routine of mine ensures progress is being made, and that’s what counts.

 

A Writing Life, For Now

Last month I got laid off from my job. I’d been there for six-and-a-half years, and it wasn’t personal. I hadn’t got caught siphoning money into an off-shore account, or viewing dirty photos on my work laptop, or even stealing stacks of Post-It notes from the supply cupboard.

My position had simply become redundant.

So, now I find myself with time on my hands for the first time in…ever, I suppose. I’ve worked since I got my first babysitting gig on New Year’s Eve the year I turned 13. Minus another layoff and two maternity leaves, I’ve worked pretty steadily since then. In my early 20s I even had two jobs. I got up at some godforsaken hour of the morning to work at 7 AM doing data entry for the government, and after I knocked off that job at 3 PM, I’d hurry back to my little apartment, shower and eat, and head out to a job at the mall where I sold lingerie to fetishists from 6 to 10 PM (well, there were only a few fetishists; most people were pretty normal). I’d stagger home around 11, fall into bed and be up and out for 7 AM the next day.

If I hadn’t been 23 years old, I’d have died from exhaustion.

Now I’ve raised two children to near adulthood, and I spent the past six years caring full-time for my elderly mother in my home. Now Mum’s got a great spot at a care home where she’s safe and happy, and all the kids need me for is driving them around so I can have the car. And money. They also need me for money.

Over the years, in between the never-ending household chores, and caring for all the other people in my life, I’ve managed to finish writing several novels. One of which even got published, which was a great joy and privilege. But I’ve yearned for time. Time to write, reflect, walk, read, drink tea while it’s still hot. Suddenly, I see those hours stretch before me each day, like a pathway, like the Yellow Brick Road to Oz.

So, what have I been doing with those round, sweet hours for the past few weeks? SFA, nada, diddly-squat. I’ve been so discombobulated (who doesn’t love that word) by the loss of my job that I’ve been spinning my wheels refreshing my stupid Facebook feed, playing Sudoku on my phone and cleaning a house that’s frankly already pretty clean. Although with teenagers around you don’t want to get too far behind on that. When I’m not at home, they eat things without using a plate whilst wandering from room to room. (When does that stop? Send help.)

But last week, I did something. I started writing a new manuscript.Writing

This will be the first that I’ll have written without having to squeeze butt-in-chair writing time into a day that’s already full of paying job tasks. Like almost any writer, I’ve fantasized about having a writing life. But what would that look like for me? I don’t know because it’s only ever been a fantasy. If I’m serious about this writing life, for however long it lasts, I must commit to a schedule, treat the writing like it’s a job. Rather than sit and wait for inspiration, I need to write anyway, write when I don’t feel like it, write when I’m blocked, write when the characters won’t talk to me.

So here I go, boldly on this journey. If this is a false start, somehow not the story I’m meant to write, I’ll self-correct and restart a different story. Only time will tell. And if I get a job before the last word is written, I’ll finish it either way because I always do. Come hell or high water, if it’s the right story, I always finish.

If anyone has successfully made this transition and has tips or insight, leave a helpful comment for me and others.