I couldn’t mention it on Twitter or on the blog because due to the nature of the experiment, I wasn’t supposed to be online. Inspired by Cynthia Robertson’s post on whether or not having a day job hinders or helps a writer’s efforts to find time to write, I decided to not have a day job for the day. I completely cleared my calendar on Friday and devoted it to absolutely nothing but my new WIP.
As with all experiments, I had a hypothesis. I had the suspicion that while time helps, it’s not the only thing writers need to write.
The procedure went a little bit like this:
I finished up all my freelance writing work for the week on Thursday. I answered all my pending emails, and even scheduled one or two Tweets so I wouldn’t feel completely cut off from the world. I imagined my Friday would give me a taste of what it’s like to be a full-time author, dedicated to nothing else but writing fiction. Dreamy, right?
Here’s how it played out:
8:30: Woke up (yes, I tend to let myself sleep in on Fridays. It’s one of the perks of having a 30-second commute). Had breakfast and took Maggie for a walk around the park.
9:30: Sat down to write and cheated just a little. I checked my work email and replied to two or three messages that needed answers right away.
10:00: Took my laptop from my office to the kitchen table and started writing. My kitchen table has officially become my “it’s time to start writing some fiction” place. I guess you could say I’ve come full circle—in my first apartment, when I only had one bedroom, I’d write all day at the table. Now that I have an actual office, I need to separate my freelance writing from my fiction writing. So, back to the kitchen table it is. This trick works every time. I sat down to write and edited the chapter I’d written the previous evening. I don’t usually edit as I go, but I figured since I have the whole day ahead of me…
12:30: Stopped for a lunch break and a much-needed stretch. Checked the mail and took Maggie out for a quick walk before realizing it was 108 degrees out.
1 – 2:45: Wrote the first scene of my next chapter. Finally started to feel like I had some momentum going.
2:45 – 3:30: Took a reading break on my couch. By now, my back was killing me and I felt my creativity starting to lag. Reading helps get my juices flowing, so I thought it’d be a good time for a break. What I didn’t account for is the fact that it’s nearly impossible for me to read shortly after lunch and not fall asleep. At about the 30-minute mark, I was just a blink away from passing out. Luckily, E called from class because he needed me to turn on his computer and activate his Dropbox account. This woke me right up. I suspect it was the embarrassment of almost being caught asleep in the middle of the afternoon that did it.
3:30 – 6:30: Wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I think I hit a pretty good stride here, and it only took me five and a half hours. By the end of the day, I’d written just over 4000 words and edited about another 1000. That’s well above my usual goal of at least 1000 words a day.
6:30-6:45: Popped into Twitter real quick to answer some tweets, then wrote a couple more emails.
6:45 and onward: Took Maggie for another walk. Me: Starving and exhausted. My back: destroyed. Dinner and a movie. And a bit of whining about my back pain.
While I loved setting aside an entire day for only writing and definitely got more done than usual, I don’t think it’s something I could keep up on a daily basis. For one, the experiment’s slightly tainted because I have to wonder if I would’ve been so productive if I wasn’t so interested in getting results. I’m sure a part of me didn’t want to have to write a blog post to the effect of: Woke up and went back to bed. Wrote 100 words in between bathroom and lunch breaks.
Another thing to consider is that the day left me both physically and emotionally drained. This whole month I’d been working on my new WIP for a couple of hours every single day. For 26 days I managed never to skip a day because I was pacing myself. Friday’s sprint was exhausting, and I ended up needing the weekend to recover.
And yet…at the end of the day on Friday, as tired as I was, I felt really good. It was empowering to know that I could keep going all day, even through moments of exhaustion and moments when I felt blocked and moments when I just wanted to crawl into bed.
So maybe I keep my slower, steady pace for now, and go for the sprints every three weeks or so. It’s nice to mix things up every once in a while, which brings me to my final conclusion: We need time, yes. But we also need variety to inspire us and rest to leave us feeling rejuvenated. At least, that’s what my back is telling me.
What about you? If you had an entire day to just do what you love to do, what it be like? And writers, do you think time is the most important tool in our toolbox? Or are others just as important?
photo credit: juhansonin