Sometimes when writing I get too fixated on the ‘bum on seat’ mentality, do you? That idea that the only way to make progress is to sit at my desk and get the words down, as if it’s a nine to five job, can be misleading, though. There are times when it may even be counterproductive – or at the very least, not the MOST productive choice.
Last month I had structural edits to do on Estella’s Expectations. In addition, I needed to expand the synopsis for book two of my gothic historical series. It was a lot, but that was fine because I had created a great schedule that felt totally manageable. Then I was ill. Then when I got better I was totally sideswiped by some family news.
Long story short…I did manage to get the structural edits done in time, but only by getting that bum on the seat and putting in the hours. Which just goes to show that sometimes that is absolutely the right way to get results, because books (unfortunately) don’t write or edit themselves.
Problem was, I now had only one week – yes, ONE WEEK – in my schedule to do an entire month’s worth of thinking and planning for Book 2. Impossible! The usual way of working wasn’t going to…well, work. What on earth was I going to do?
First things first, I decided panicking was not the way to get results. Instead, I was going to have to get creative with the way I worked. The plan I came up with might not pay off, I decided, but it was worth taking a gamble.
Instead of sitting at my desk, I went away for a week, to be by the sea. Every morning I got up early, meditated (using Brain.fm) and did some yoga to ensure I was in the right mindset, and then…I went out. I walked for miles every day, recording my thoughts on my iPhone as I went to ensure that no ideas got forgotten along the way. Structure, twists, character traits, motivations, character deadlines and stakes…I worked on it all while taking in the sights of beautiful Tynemouth.
And you know what? It worked! I achieved the ‘impossible’ and got a month’s worth of work done in a week. Do you want to know something else? I felt really relaxed by the end of my time away, as if I’d had a proper break rather than worked my socks off.
All the recorded notes have now been transcribed (I use Otter.ai as I find it really fast and accurate, and love the fact the recordings are kept with the transcript, so that if there are any mistakes in the copy I can listen back to discover what was actually said).
The whole experiment was a great reminder to myself that writing isn’t always about being in front of my laptop. Sometimes when working in the creative arts, it’s not only possible to work in a creative and different way, it’s optimum. It’s about having the confidence to take time and space for those ‘idea moments’ even when we’re up against it and the temptation is to knuckle down, when really the thing to do is free ourselves.