Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Day Off to Write by Andy Scheer

If your employer granted you a day off—eight full hours—to work on your writing project, what could you accomplish?

Can't happen? What about yesterday? You say you had plans for Memorial Day. Then what about the next federal holiday.

As I write this, it's not quite noon. Besides catching up on emails and writing this, I've created a 500-word draft for a magazine piece due Saturday. After lunch I plan to dig into some reference material for a project I've been putting off. And now I have twenty free minutes to write this.

I came to the keyboard this morning with a fair idea of what I would write. I awoke this past Saturday at 4:00 a.m., my mind filled with ideas for the magazine piece. Fifteen minutes later, after recording my ideas, I tried to get back to sleep. But I kept thinking about what I'd post here on May 28. So I trudged to my office with another scrap of paper and logged some ideas.

My writing usually comes in three phases: stewing, jotting ideas, and keyboarding. All are essential, even if I have the luxury of eight straight hours.

This points me to the strategy I learned from Dr. Dennis Henley: If you want time to write, make it. He suggests setting aside two hours for writing each weeknight—four TV sitcoms or two dramas worth of time. At the end of a month, you'll have put in a full 40 hours of writing. At the end of a year, 480 hours or one dozen 40-hour workweeks—three months worth.

Today I might not invest the full afternoon in writing. I've also been putting off a few handyman projects. But while I accomplish those, I can still be planning my time at the keyboard.


Anonymous said...

That's how I write. I stew on something for a while, then sit down and write. But I do have times when I sit down and start typing and something new flows out. I suspect that my brain has been working on it for a while. Writers write all the time, even when they are not sitting down at the keyboard. My favorite time to "write" is when I am walking around the neighborhood and have no household distractions. Thanks for this post.

Davalyn Spencer said...

Great advice. I'm going to share this with a young high school boy who loves to write.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Andy. I especially love the two hours per night idea from Doc Hensley. I try to strike a balance between writing, spending time with my husband, avoiding housework, and social networking. I sometimes feel like a top-heavy clown on a high trapeze!

Rick Barry said...

Part of the challenge is guiding the thinking of loved ones. Even the closest of friends and family will hear us say, "I'm staying home from the office to write," but will interpret that as, "I have a day off from work. What can I do for you today?"

Early to bed and rising at 5 a.m. is still my best strategy.

Terry Burns said...

You got that right, Rick. And for someone that works from home these people interpret that as "he doesn't work, he's always available."

Andy Scheer said...

Concerning that, Jack Cavanaugh offered a great suggestion: after you go into your office, close the door.

Lisa Phillips said...

My two hours comes during PM Kindergarten, when my two year old is napping. One of my critique partners homeschools her teens so she does her two hours first thing in the morning.

Then all you have to do is, type type type type type :-)