High Days and Holidays

With the rain hammering down into my garden for the third day running, my mind has naturally turned to holidays. One of the steps I took when I started to write seriously again was to create an escalating schedule of writing, moving from the hobby-like “when I feel in the mood”, towards the job-like “whether I want to or not”. Many other writers, famous and not so, also embrace this conception of writing as if it were a job. But do we actually treat it like a job? Admittedly we cannot really steal our own stationery, or claim expenses from ourselves, but many jobs come with days off. Do we take them?

Last week John Scalzi posted that he writes about 2,000 words a day, so averages 10,000 words a week; clever readers will already have noted he therefore writes 5 days in an average week. Conversely, Ali Luke‘s last newsletter on setting targets talked about aiming for several hundred words each weekday and 3,000 on Saturday and Sunday; so definitely not taking any days off.

As I wrote last year, my usual writing schedule is based around having the weekend off. So, seeing John Scalzi keeping his weekends free made me feel less of a dilettante. However, I am working on a second story for the Fauxpocalypse Project, due mid-August, so have been writing on weekends as well, which could be equated to overtime. Similarly, regular readers might have noticed I do not take Bank Holidays off from blogging.

But can I take it as overtime? If I write for the next few weekends, is it reasonable to take off one weekday a week for a few weeks after I have finished the work with a deadline?

Clearly – unless I want to submit something with a deadline – I can write as infrequently as I choose, but I write because mostly I want to write, so start to feel twitchy if I abstain for too long. The more complex question is whether it is good to take a break to balance out the effort. While many employers are decent, altruistic people, one big reason the law requires, and they provide, time off is to prevent loss of productivity. If I write on more days, for longer than usual, does my writing suffer if I do not take a break?

Assuming treating writing more like a job requires I include a provision for days off, do I have to take it further and keep a strict track of the days I did not write and the days I worked beyond my schedule? Do I need to create a holiday allowance for the year, so I can take a week away without needing to make it up later?

I took a break from writing fiction after successfully completing NaNoWriMo last year, and ended up having to work hard to get back into my groove. Was that because I took a break at all? Or because I did not have a designated account of days off to set it against?

This post is mostly filled with questions because I am not sure of the answers. Not having any formal schedule at all risks my progress being slowed by the hurdles I mentioned last week. But having a strict system might trap me into not working when inspiration struck because I had already written too much.

Having finished this article I am off to put on my waterproofs and wade out to find the watering can because the schedule says I water the pots and baskets on Mondays and Thursdays.

Do you have a fixed writing schedule or just wing it? Do you have a system for deviating from the plan?

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11 thoughts on “High Days and Holidays

  1. As a natural procrastinator, I am trying to post each day or I will be posting in my head and nowhere else. I have no special time for posting. I have had to deviate and had no plan. I am still having fun at this.

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  2. I try to write every day except weekends. However, as a freelancer who needs to generate income I have found that sometimes I need to work on the weekend. But, I then take a couple of days off when I am done. I don’t do well on a strict schedule, but I do get a lot done when I do write.

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  3. For me, I’m starting down a path of hopefully transition into writing as a real job, and not just a second, part-time job. To that end, I’ve been trying to take it as seriously as possible. Granted, I have a 2 and a 3 year old, so my available hours to devote to it are a small pool, so that means I have to be even more dedicated to ensure those hours don’t get wasted.

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  4. For writing (or any other long-term serious project) I do have a schedule. How I define the schedule varies a lot, though. I’ll experiment. A few months with a certain schedule, and then I may change to a different system if that’s not working.

    But I tend not to have a system for deviating from the schedule. Generally if I can’t follow my rules, I won’t be able to follow my “rules for not following the rules” either.

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    1. Good point about not following rules being a pervasive event.

      I suspect the answer for each person might come down to how they handle guilt: a person who is not overly troubled by past issues would benefit much less from a pre-existing number of days they were allowed to not work than someone who feels guilt over missing a day if it was part of the schedule.

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    1. Encountering plot/fact points that were critical enough that I could not just mark {INSERT FLABBIT GRUFFLING DETAILS} in the manuscript and move on was one of the reasons I moved to a less granular target.

      If I am aiming to write a short story in three weeks then stopping after 100 words on day three to research flabbit gruffling does not cause guilt.

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