How Do You Work?

29 Jan

I’m talking about your process here. How do you work best? What do you need to be able to work at least well enough?

It’s the season of colds and ‘flu’ and I’ve been less than well for a week or two. I find dull-headedness and a bunged-up nose unconducive to creativity; and all sorts of jobs around the house are left undone.

So, as the cold began to retreat, I made a list of jobs. It made me tired just looking at it! 😀 Things had been on the slide for some time. It was at this point I decided to do something different.

What did I do differently?

Some of the things on my list needed attention urgently; if not today then tomorrow! So I took the advice of Randy Ingermanson which I read in one of his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zines. It went along the lines of: if you have a heap of things to do then take a day off and use it to clear the backlog.

I thought this would work well for ‘one off’ things which, once done, would be gone and wouldn’t need to be done again (or not for quite a while). So that’s what did differently. I took a day off and started at the top of the list and worked through. Fine except there were so many things it expanded to the rest of the week 😀

I laugh, but it had an unexpected and unwelcome effect.

For the last year I’ve been training myself to sit down and write or revise or plan stories between 10.30-11.50am and 2.30-4.30pm. It’s been hard work to establish that routine but it works well enough for most of the time. Taking a week out broke this routine and it has been difficult to re-establish it.

What have I learned from this?

Don’t leave things to build up. If they need to be done some time, do at least some jobs sooner rather than later.

I need to write regularly. Taking time away from writing to do other things makes me feel resentful, antsy, fed-up, and my characters give me a hard time 🙂

More seriously, taking a week out breaks my hard-won writing routine. Although I want to write, after a week of not writing it’s more difficult to get back into the routine again. Admittedly it doesn’t help that I’m not fully well yet but I know this would happen even if I felt ok (going on holiday and the break of routine has the same effect).

Which gets me back to where I started. I’ve become aware of my process and how it works. I need to write regularly to carry on writing regularly. Even if that writing (or revision) isn’t very good, it’s better for me to do sub-standard work than to do no work at all. Sub-standard work (and it is sub-standard relative to what I usually do) can always be revised; it’s impossible to revise blank pages.

So I’m wondering if your process is very different to mine; and if so, what works for you?


Ed to update. Blog kept loading an older version of this post. I don’t understand why.


Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “How Do You Work?

  1. Kirsten

    January 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I hope you’re doing better, and that Mr. Prue is staying healthy as well!

    What an interesting question. I’m still working out the bugs in my process, but this is what I’ve come up with for now.

    I’ve been setting a timer, to divide my writing time into revising time, critiquing time and blogging time. This way I can decide what I need to do, see where my time goes, and then allocate it accordingly. The internet is wonderful place to learn about writing and meet other writers, but also takes a tremendous amount of time away from my novel writing. And novel writing is still what I love to do the most.

    I even use the timer for catching up on housework, shopping, and errands. I decide ahead of time how much time I will spend on something, and try my best to stick to it. ‘Perfect’ haunts me in other areas of my life besides writing, and recognizing that was a huge help to me.

    For the days where I don’t have time to work on the novel—and there seem to be far too many of those—I’ve found it helpful to indulge in morning words. Those three pages of writing, where I write whatever is on my mind, (usually stories though) are enough to satisfy the restless muse, and keep resentment about not being able to write more at bay. Sometimes this even results in ideas sneaking up on me during the day.

    I agree, it’s important to get into some kind of writing routine, and make a point of writing or revising something on a schedule, even if it feels like futility sometimes. I take a lot of wrong turns in my writing, and maybe other writers don’t have to take the circuitous route that I do. That’s just how it is. But, in the process of these detours, just the act of going to my desk and kicking around words for a few hours gets the gears going, and eventually the answer I was looking for does tend to appear.
    I usually write weekends, and as late as I can manage to stay up on week nights. It never seems to be enough. 🙂

    I like the idea of setting aside just one day to do all the things that stack up and I might try that sometime. I can see, however, where the impulse to get everything done, once and for all, would lead to a week or more hiatus!

    Even so, I don’t think missing a week here and a week there is that crucial to the overall process, as long as the routine has already been well established–though I do know that ‘left behind’ feeling all too well.
    The best remedy for it that I’ve found is to jump right back in. 🙂

    • Prue

      January 30, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      Thanks for sharing your process, Kirsten. And for the reminder about a timer. They are so useful and I used mine to good effect today.

      You are so right about jumping back in. I got my chapters sorted out today and really enjoyed working on the story again. I’m sure you’re right about the odd week missed here and there. Perhaps it’s even beneficial at times?

      One thing for sure; there are just not enough hours in the day 🙂

  2. rae101049

    January 29, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    You hit the nail on the head. It’s hard to revise blank pages. The most important thing we can do is write, no matter what.

    But, day-to-day stuff piles up, backs up, and messes up our best resolutions.

    Maybe a big part of writing is discipline. (The D word!) It sounds to me your plan works well, and you write a LOT more than I do!

    When I write, I now close the door to my office. I let my family know I still love them, I just must have peace and quiet. My guilt at shutting them out far out weighed any lonliness they may have felt. And, guess what, they are doing just fine. I give myself an hour or two, emerge from my writer’s den and, while dinner isn’t cooked and vacuuming isn’t done, I feel better and I have something to read to my husband.

    Hope the cold evaporates soon! I’m off to start Lesson Seventeen, Chapter Three! NancyD

  3. Prue

    January 30, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Good luck with Lesson 17, Chapter 3! You’re doing great 🙂 That lesson is amazing – for so many reasons.

    I think self-discipline is so important and something that I lose a grip of at times – so don’t run away with the idea that I’m doing LOTS 😀 Some days that’s true, others not so much. I work slowly at the best of times too.

    It was Mr Prue who taught me that blank pages are less than useful many years ago when we worked together. He was my boss and one evening refused to let me leave the office until I’d written the first line of a short paper I was supposed to have written weeks before 😀
    A case of perfectitis if ever there was one; I wanted to write every sentence perfectly so ended up writing nothing!

    Thanks for your good wishes. Feeling much better today.


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