Something struck me the other day about writing. It’s different from most desk-job workflows. Massively so. Let me put it this way. A typical ‘office job’, certainly at the kind of planning-and-control (‘manager’) level that writers have when working, involves a complex daily schedule of appointments. Time is divided up typically into hourly brackets, each often with a quite different task – a meeting, a report, review or whatever.
For a writer, though, an hour is just barely time to get limbered up – time runs in blocks of four or five hours or more. My own ‘writing days’ are typical: I’ll get going early, but it’s a couple of hours before I’ll write anything particularly meaningful. Once I’m in the ‘zone’, though, things flow – and I’ll quite often keep going irrespective, because if that flow’s broken for too long then I have to go back to the cold-start again. Sometimes the process involves taking a break of an hour or so, simply to put my thoughts into further order – but never to the point of breaking that flow.
The problem with this, apart from missing dinner, is that being a full-time author also involves a lot of ‘office job’ time with those one-hour blocks. There’s marketing, letter-answering, social media (a bit – I’ve been absent of late), and planning further work. Books themselves also need work other than writing: the publisher editorial input, for instance, which has to be allocated and is non-trivial. For me, as a largely non-fiction writer, there’s also research which, itself, is fiddly to organise these days. All of this, in turn, also requires a certain amount of planning and prioritising. I don’t quite go down to the level of Gant charts, but identifying dependencies and time-factors is certainly part of the planning process.
The way I do it is to plan each week accordingly – I’ll identify priorities and then set aside a day, for instance, for the ‘office jobs’. And sure, I don’t write a single word that day, but it’s all moving things forward and part of the writing deal. Full-time writing, in short, isn’t solely about physically assembling words on a page. And on other days I’ll try to get big blocks of time to let me focus on the text in hand. Being a writer is, after all, running a small business, which has to be run like any other: efficiently.
If you’re a writer – or in any of the creative endeavours, for it’s true of all of them – do you run into these issues? What is your solution?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2022