September 3, 2013

Making Time to Write

Dear M,

I have been very busy the past two months. Very busy is pretty much an understatement, going confusedly crazy would be closer to it. If we did not need so much sleep in our lifetime, we could have managed ourselves better. No, I take that back: if we did not have to sleep, we would take up more work to fill in twenty four hours, and more. I don't know if any other species neglects themselves (and finds satisfaction from it) the way we do.

I was reading an article on the web last evening about finding (making) time to write between our regular career and other lifely matters - how people have managed to spend an hour every day to write, how amidst the din of normalcy, writers find their voice, etc. Our professions are important, we need them to sustain our life. Writing, until we become so good at it as to earn from it, does not do much to contribute to our sustenance. It probably helps to keep our sanity together - on second thoughts, these days my sanity is on a downward spiral thanks to my literary pursuits. But I digress (as usual). We cannot abandon our people or ignore their needs just because we call ourselves writers. Not yet, but maybe some day.

A few months ago, distressed that my regular job was keeping me from writing as much as I wanted to, I took a month's leave from work. I decided that I was going to finish this darn writing and editing that had been pestering me for long. I was excited about it, you know. This time, I was going to nail it, and there would be no more regrets, I promised myself.

The first week of leave went well - I wrote like I had never written before, ten continuous hours of writing, with breaks only for food and water and basic needs. In the evening, I took some time off for a walk, to refresh myself. I was happy - and that is an understatement too.

The second week started slow, I was a little exhausted with the efforts of the first week. Delighted and enthusiastic and highly motivated, but a little sleepy. I watched television and took more naps than before, but wrote for about eight hours or so. From there began the decline. In the days that followed, I showed up at my desk only when I felt guilty for wasting my precious leave. I managed to do what I wanted to by the end of the month, but it was mostly guilt that drove me.

I realised something that wise people have known for centuries: unless we are under pressure, we would not do anything. When I had my regular work, I would manage one hour every day to write. And that one hour would be very focussed, because I knew I would not be able to spend more than those sixty minutes. Some days I would be tired and let myself take rest, but the next day I would try to make up for lost time. I was under extreme duress, (and complaining like hell) and I was performing well without endangering my health. The progress I made was astounding. When the work pressure was taken off (and since there was no publisher-pressure), there was nothing to drive me - I had the feeling that I was given all the time in the world. Thirty days.

After I rejoined work (which I now appreciated more than I did earlier) I began to plan my time better. Weekends were pretty much completely dedicated to writing. Week days, I would write only three days, for two hours each. Any three days. The other two days I would rest. Maybe I would write one more day, but that was my choice. That way, I would not be killing myself writing, nor would I be neglecting the literature. Once in a while I take a day off and write all that I want to write. That one precious day-off would be completely committed to writing (or editing, whatever was the priority at hand).

That, simply put, works wonderfully well.

But I took another month from work to participate in NaNoWriMo, and that worked even better - I should tell you about it another time!


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