Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

Journal

The Freelance Leap: Working Habits

November 8, 2013 by Richard Wright in Journal, The Freelance Leap

A month and a bit ago, I finished up at a dayjob to see what I can make of a full year of writing full time. I’m keeping track of during these Friday blogs, and previous installments are racked up here.

Office

Some of you will have noticed already, but this week I’ve been blogging through my day as I try to finish my current novel-in-progress before the end of Sunday. It’s been fun to do, and eye opening. At the start of the week I had 50,000 words of novel. As of close of play today, I have 76,000.

My writing software of choice is a program called Scrivener, which I recommend unreservedly to any writer. One of its minor delights is a feature that lets you tell it how long your work in progress will be by the end (I think I’m writing a 90,000 word novel), the date that you want to finish, and which days of the week you write on. With that done, any time you open up the software it can tell you how many words you need to accomplish that day in order to stay on target to hit your total. It’s the sort of feature that’s ‘neat’, but that I never found a use for.

Until I changed my working habits this week. When I left work at the end of September I decided to start this freelance thing by sticking to the same hours I had at the dayjob. It seemed sensible enough. I was used to them, after all. Over the first month though, i found myself getting a lot less done than I would have assumed. Work happened, but it wasn’t adding up as I’d ideally wish. Sometimes I’d sit down at 08:30, and it would be a couple of hours and many coffees before I wrote anything useful. Sometimes I only picked up speed in the last couple of hours of the working day – too little, too late.

This week, I abandoned that. Whether it doesn’t suit the business of writing a book or whether it just doesn’t suit me is anybody’s guess. I thought it was time to start something new, and looked to Scrivener’s daily word estimate in order to lead me.

The new workday – and you can go and check out the fine detail on the most recent daily posts – has little structure. I have a number of words to hit, and am allowing myself to get there however suits. As long as the words exist at the end of a day, I’m good. I haven’t pushed myself to start writing at 08:30, and looking back I can see that it’s closer to 10:00 each day before I really get going. I let my brain warm up in its own time, and save myself two hours of frustration. I also don’t make myself keep writing unless I want to. The words have come not in mighty marathon writing sessions, but in little bursts of forty-five minutes to an hour throughout the day. Usually I run late, and am still making up words while I’m cooking the dinner. That’s fine. I’ve only missed the target once (today), and as you can see above the words are mounting up fast. I might not be done by Sunday night, but I’ll forgive myself if it takes just a day or two extra.

I’m thrilled. I’ve finally got the kind of writing system I needed. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but right now it suits me very well. That I’ve got there not by mimicking my former daily routine but by abandoning it completely sort of suits the spirit of this whole freelance project.

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