Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Writing When You're Busy

I'm going to have to dive into those revisions today because I need them done next week. Eep! Since I took the jazz class after ballet, my body is currently angry at me, so sitting and working is probably good. And then I get to go chase kindergarteners. More eep.

Today's writing post is appropriate to stuff I'm dealing with now. I have a reader question about writing when everything else in life is going crazy, like a busy holiday season.

How you handle this depends on your situation. It's more serious when you have a contractual deadline. You have a lot more leeway when you're working on your own and it's more of a personal goal.

If possible, you can avoid some stress by setting realistic deadlines. Sometimes, you may get revisions from your editor and a request to have them done in a week, and you don't have much choice in the matter, but generally when it comes to completion of a manuscript, I'm given some say in setting the due date. I tend to pad my deadlines in a big way, which takes away some stress and makes me look brilliant when I'm very early, but I take a good look at my calendar and make sure the deadline doesn't fall around a major event like a convention or a holiday season when I'm sure to be busy. I try to set my deadlines before such events because if you are coming up against a deadline and need to put on a push, you don't want that to be during a week in which you have events every night and a lot of errands to run.

If something comes up and it looks like you won't meet your deadline, it's best if you let the editor know right away. I know my previous publisher also padded deadlines because authors so often missed them, but it does help in their scheduling if they have time to plan. I had that issue come up a couple of years ago when I was ill for nearly six weeks and it completely sidetracked my writing. I let the publisher know while I was still sick that I might be late with the book, and they were able to work things out.

If you do have to get work done during a busy time, you need to give yourself permission to let other things slide for a while. Focus on the things you're required to do -- your work and whatever's making you busy. Then let yourself live on takeout and frozen dinners for a week, don't worry about the house getting messy, and dig deep into your "laundry day" clothes. If you have a chance to prepare for a busy run, do the laundry in advance and stock up on quick and easy meals. Let your friends know that your social life may need to be put on hold for a while, though it doesn't hurt to give yourself an occasional break so you don't snap.

If the deadline isn't urgent and you don't want to just give yourself a writing break during the busy spell, adjust your expectations. You may not hit your usual time or word count goals, but doing any work at all can be an achievement that allows you to maintain some momentum. If you're really distracted, to the point that writing is hard to focus on, this could be a good time for brainstorming or research so that you're thinking about your story even if you aren't adding words to the manuscript.

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