I do very few things well under pressure. So when I sit down to work on a book, especially a novel, I usually make sure I’ve set aside a large block of time, giving myself a chance to get back into the story, set up achievable goals for words on the page and then actually write those words.
But lately, those blocks of time have become smaller and smaller. I won’t bore you with the details of my busy life – we’re all wishing for 40-hour days these days, right? – but I do know that my time will free up a bit later this year. And I’ve been tempted to say “Well that’s when I’ll work on this novel.”
But I grew impatient. I was anxious to get back into this exciting project.
So for the past two days, I’ve been squeezing in some unexpected writing time. I’ll admit, I was set up pretty well for this experiment with ten pages of my own handwritten revision notes and a marked up manuscript.
One might expect that with a wee bit of time, I’d opt for wee revisions. But honestly, by the time I open up my 150-page manuscript and jump around finding just the right spots for those adjustments, and skip from revision note to revision note, I could have written an entire scene.
So that’s just what I did.
And there was something terribly freeing about opening up a brand new document labeled with a scene title and jumping right in.
I had no sense of foreboding about the task at hand because my expectations were low – I’ll just jot down some thoughts related to this scene. After all, I only have a few minutes. But then my fingers were flying across the keyboard as dialog and setting and metaphors (some were quite dastardly, I’ll admit) flowed with ease. And the delight of getting some work done when I expected to get none, actually inspired me to go beyond the stale scribbles of pressured revisions and take risks with the story. I wrote an entire scene. And just like with my golf game – when my expectations are low I play my best – the writing was surprisingly good.
So try it sometime. Write when you least expect it. The quantity and quality of what hits the page might pleasantly surprise you.
Have you had random writing moments? Tell me about them.
You know what? The pb manuscript I've had the most positive feedback on was scrawled in the school carline, waiting for my kids. Other mss, where I've blocked off oodles of time, are still driving me crazy. <br /><br />Reminds me of the Scripture from Ecclesiastes 11:6: Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing
Kristin,<br />Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I didn't remember that Scripture quote which is so lovely and so appropriate. Now you remind me – one of my PBs (not saying which) was written during a boring lecture (not saying which one) :)<br />Good luck with your PB manuscript!
That's such a good tip, Jean. I think anything that gets you out of any writing ruts you might be in can really spark productivity. For example, when I'm at the computer my mind seems to be in "word production" mode. If I want it in "think about the story" mode, it helps to go somewhere else in the house. I agree with your first paragraph all the way!
Thanks for the comment, Marcia. Interestingly, I have a future post about how necessary "downtime" is to writing. That sounds just like your "think about the story" mode.<br />Happy writing!
Love the post, Jean! I'm a big advocate of drive-by writing. It is the way I get most of my writing done. I jot, scribble, brainstorm and draft in tiny spurts and stolen moments. Then when I actually have a block of time to write, I'm ready to go!
"Drive-by writing" – Love it!