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?