I’m of the opinion that having a daily routine helps protect space for creativity. If I don’t have a routine I tend to lurch back and forth between neglecting the mundane affairs of daily life and allowing them to consume the time for creative pursuits. I actually wrote a Wise Bread post on the topic: Being Routinely Creative.
Merely knowing this about myself does not automatically provide an effective routine, so I’m always on the lookout for good models. One that I spotted a while back was the daily routine of Charles Darwin. I tried briefly to follow a similar routine, but didn’t manage to turn it into a habit. Now I’m trying again.
There are several things I like about Darwin’s routine. For one thing, it was obviously effective—Darwin managed to sustain a high level of productive creativity over an extended period. Its priorities (work, fitness, family) are general in accordance with mine. As a bonus, the amount of time and the times of day that Darwin spent working roughly matches what I find lets me be my most productive.
So, today I tried to block out my time along the lines of Darwin’s schedule. It didn’t quite work out, partly because of details of the schedule itself and partly because I was still lurching between ignoring the schedule and following it too enthusiastically, but it was a good start. I’ve blocked out a modified version of the schedule for tomorrow.
I go back and forth about tracking words as a useful metric when writing fiction. Currently, I’m back on again.
Over the past few days, I’ve created a spreadsheet along the lines of the one Toby provided in his post on creativity and word tracking. Mine is simpler than his; I don’t have a deadline, so I don’t need to track progress toward one.
My main input is simply the length of the current draft. From that I calculate the words written that day. I’m also tracking a 5-day moving average (although I’m thinking of changing that to a 7-day moving average, to smooth out the impact of weekday issues). I calculate a “words to go” value (by subtracting words written from an estimated final length) and a “days to go” value (“words to go” divided by the moving average). Currently I’m using 60,000 words as my estimated final length–a reasonable value for a short novel, I think–but if I come up with a better guess as I proceed I can change my estimate.
I’m currently at 7555 words and my current 5-day moving average is 745 words per day, so my estimated days to completion of a first draft is 70. We’ll see.
Is this useful? I’m not sure yet. But I do know that I wrote 318 words of fiction yesterday, even though I also wrote a new Wise Bread post and was feeling a bit burned out. The fact that I’d otherwise have had to plug a zero in for words written yesterday was significant motivation for getting me to put in the time to get some fiction written.
I’m not doing NaNoWriMo (because I’m not going to try to write this in a month, and also because I started a couple of weeks ago), but I am going to be cranking away producing novelish prose over the next month, so I feel a certain kinship with others doing the same.
I’m doing several things differently this time. In particular, I don’t have an outline. In fact, I have only the barest notion of where things are going. This will no doubt mean that a whole bunch of rewriting of the beginning will be required (so that it ends up being a beginning that heads to the end that I end up writing), but that’s a small price to pay if the result is a novel that I’m pleased with.
The other main thing that I’m doing differently is giving chapters to Jackie to read as I write them. Doing so has prompted me to try to make each bit exciting, which I think is having a positive effect.
Today was Taiji class. The instruction is following an interesting direction. It’s our third class, but we have yet to do a taiji form. Instead, we’re learning pieces. We spent two days doing the upper-body parts of Cloud Hands one-handed. Today we did them two-handed for the first time. Separately, we’ve done several bits of footwork: shifting weight, empty step, etc. We’ve not yet done anything that combines upper-body and lower-body motions. However, I have a strong sense that we’re building a proper foundation. By the time we do our first actual piece of the form, I expect we’ll have most of the moves for doing the whole thing.
Got some writing-related work done today. I put two manuscripts in the post. I also revitalized my old submission-tracking database, which I hadn’t gotten properly set up when I got a new computer several years ago. I wasn’t actively submitting manuscripts, so it didn’t seem urgent. Then when I started sending them out again I didn’t want to wait to get my tracking system working, so I just did the tracking in a spreadsheet. Today I got the old tracking system working again, and moved over all the data from the spreadsheet. So, I once again have complete submission information for all my manuscripts, including a few old manuscripts that hadn’t yet been submitted to every market.
I wrote an article about story structure that was published in Speculations (now sadly defunct). The article was Story Structure in Short Stories.