It’s hard being a writer, isn’t? Put yourself in the shoes of Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, a man who’s had countless articles written about his progress on the sixth book of his famous series. Reading those headlines alone is enough to make your head spin! Imagine the enormous pressure that Mr. Martin must feel himself!!
Stephen King, on the other hand, poses as a pretty strong counterargument for Martin’s progress, as his Mr. Martin asked Mr. King with his own words, what gives?
Clearly these two extremely successful and popular authors have two very different approaches towards their writing. Which raises some questions for the rest of us, who are looking for a way to make it in the writing business. First, what can we as authors or potential authors make of this conundrum? Second, how can we find that balance between life’s demands, easy distractions, and writer’s block?
I have to answer that first question with a question: What do you stand to gain by imagining your situation is different? In the YouTube video I’ve linked above, Mr. King says that he commits himself to writing six pages each day, while Mr. Martin is critical of every sentence he writes. Do both methods work? Absolutely. Is either one of them the method for you? Maybe or maybe not….
So, where does that leave us?
I work a full time corporate job with a long New Jersey commute. Adding it all up, my typical day is about 12 hours. I save time on the weekends for drinking alone or with friends, playing video games, watching my Yankees during the baseball season, and typically not writing.
But, and this is the inflection point for where I am in life today, I am single and live alone, which means I can dedicate an hour or so four nights a week to work as hard as I can on my writing. Sunday night, Monday night, Wednesday night, and Thursday night are no holds barred, gloves off, street fights with my work. I start each session with 10-30 minutes of meditating (with YouTube’s help), which does a great job clearing my head, especially from a stressful work day. Then, I don’t care if I write 50 words or 500 words. Both have happened. The way I see it, as long as I’m getting words on the page and the story is moving, I can always clean it up later in my edits. And the best part of it all is that I get two work nights and entire weekends to do whatever brings me joy.
And honestly, over the course of a year, it’s impossible to commit to such a stringent schedule – life happens. But did you notice my use of language? An hour or so. 50 words or 500 words are both okay. I am lenient with myself. I know I am committed enough to my work that, if I miss a night, it’s okay because I’ll definitely find a way to make up for it. And those 50 word nights are usually followed by a couple of 500 word nights. That’s the beauty of pushing a story along.
My therapist is a Buddhist who has taught me that, in eastern philosophy, death is waiting right behind us, counting down and waiting until it’s our time meet him. Time is the most valuable commodity we have and it’s our duty to manage it as responsibly as we can. We only get so much time.
So be honest with yourself. What’s your situation? How can you optimize it in a way that’s most efficient for you as a writer? What are your inflection points? Are you spending your time in ways that are both meaningful to you and lenient? How about your work?