Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Promise Written in Blood

By Chester Campbell

Now that the holidays are behind us, it's back to business as usual. For a small press author like me, that means juggling a large handful of balls with names like Internet promotion, scheduling, professional responsibilities (jobs I took on with writers organizations), trips to post office and bank, household chores, daily walks at the mall, chauffeuring wife and grandson, checking seventh grader's homework, and yes, at times, writing.

A more disciplined writer would stake out a certain time of day and declare it a fixed period for writing only, no matter what else should come along. I can't seem to structure my life that way. Doctors' and dentists' appointments keep interfering, unscheduled trips to Walmart for necessities, calls from school to bring something forgotten, church chores like doing Meals on Wheels, buying groceries, gassing up the car, et cetera.

I envy people like Tim Hallinan who can hide away in a Cambodian coffee house and write for hours. I keep his Ten Rules for writing around my desk and look at them occasionally, though I continually fail to follow them. Rule 1 pretty well tells the story:

"Write daily, and by that I mean seven days a week. I will take a day off only when it's absolutely unavoidable and never, under any circumstances, take two days off in a row."

I have been working on my current book for more than two months now and have written exactly four chapters. My goal is to have it finished by early spring. Something tells me I need to speed things up a bit. I suppose I could blame it on the holidays, and the pre-holidays, and the days leading up to the pre-holidays. But something else tells me I need to set some new goals, like a maximum of 30 minutes a day reading emails and following links to the Internet. If I can't dedicate certain times of day to writing, I need to commit to a minimum of sneaking 1,000 words a day into my computer.

Sticky notes for writing promises.

Okay, I'll write it in blood. Mine is hardly thicker than water so it won't be a problem. I should be finished sometime in March. Right now I'd better quit creating this drivel and get to work on my novel. To exert maximum pressure, I'll promise to keep you posted on my progress


Shane Cashion said...

I like your goals, Chester. What a luxury it would be to have a schedule/resources that allowed for long mornings in a coffee shop devoted to writing. I'd probably learn how to write a query letter if I had that kind of time :)

Jaden Terrell said...

Me too, me too, me too, Chester. It love it, yet somehow it's so hard to fit it in. I read about Audrey Niffenegger (I think that's who it was) writing behind her office door at her day job (before she got published for a bazillion dollars), and I think, yeah, that's what I should do. But it just seems wrong. After all, they're paying me to do this other thing.

I just have to do what you're doing and put the writing at the top of the to-do list, no matter what, every single day, even if it's just a tiny bit of forward progress.

Thanks for the motivation!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Now that I live on a mountaintop it's so much easier to set aside time to write. In fact, all those other chores you mentioned, Chester, are sandwiched in at odd times as I write. My goal is five pages a day and I sometimes write in the middle of the night because I'm working on three books at once: my fourth mystery, second children's book and second historical novel. I rarely watch TV and often feel guilty because I enjoy writing so much.