Adam Christopher | Steampunk and dark fantasy author. Now with added superheroes!

Adam Christopher is a New Zealand-born SF writer living in the sunny north of England.

Archive for May 5, 2009

Writing is the only thing you do

By coincidence, just as was thinking about time management and how to kick-start the writing habit that I’d at least partially lost once I’d finished Dark Heart, a couple of blogs I follow made some good points about sacrifice and procrastination, two key concepts that all serious writers need to get to grips with. Sure, it wasn’t news to me, but sometimes you need someone to state the obvious to you before it clicks. And then once it has clicked, you can correct the behaviour, see the positive change in your work, and move on up.

Couple o’ years ago, I helped out someone with a comic website, only to discover after a couple of months that she was canning the entire project. But you like comics, I said, and your website is terrific. She agreed, but she also revealed that she was now committing all her energies to her writing. She was working on a big epic fantasy series (7 books I think), and was going to focus entirely on them. While I admired her dedication, I thought she was also a little bit crazy. Give up writing about comics? Give up an awesome website?

Thing is, she was completely right.

If you’re serious about writing, about turning a hobby into a job, it has to be your number one priority. Writing has to be what you do. Everything else – including your day job, which most of us have to keep going – is secondary. What do you do? You write. What are you? A writer. When a friend tells you about all the exciting things they did at the weekend, you can tell them how you sat at home and wrote.

Actually it applies to anything you want – if you have a goal in life, and you want to achieve that goal, it has to be what your entire life is about until you reach it. Fair enough, some people don’t have goals or ambitions like that, and that’s fine. But for those of us who do, it becomes our entire purpose.

That’s not to say you have to abandon friends, family and leisure time, but you have to make sacrifices and plan how you spend your time. I play World of Warcraft, but I took all of March off the game to finish Dark Heart. Now that I’m playing again, I’ve noticed my productivity drop. The solution is simply to play less. This also applies to other hobbies – I used to write for a few websites, I did book reviews, comic reviews, etc. I’ve cut them all out, gone completely cold turkey, so I can focus on writing. It’s dangerous to fool yourself into thinking you’re getting your name out there and that any writing is good writing – it’s not. Any writing you do that isn’t on your story is wasted.

Ok, that’s an exaggeration. If you can schedule some extra stuff into your LEISURE time (but not your WRITING time, note the distinction), that’s cool. This blog, for instance. Twitter, etc. Just don’t pretend that that is writing.

All this came to mind this week as I’m off on Friday to the Bristol Comic Show, where I’ll be reporting for Comic Book Resources. DC chief editor Dan DiDio will be there, running a couple of DC panels, so the opportunity is too good to miss. But the first thing that crossed my mind was that it was cutting into my writing time, because the reports are going to be writing that isn’t my novel. But looking at it from another side, it’s actually a job of work, so really I will be going to Bristol, attending the con and reporting on it during the day, and my morning/evening writing routine should continue uninterrupted, albeit from a hotel in Portishead instead of my desk at home.

Putting writing time as your number one priority takes a change of mindset and a little effort, but it’ll pay off. Stephen King said that if you can’t spend 3-4 hours a day reading and writing, you will not become a good writer. One of my favourite (living) authors, A. Lee Martinez, reminds us not to sweat the small stuff. Literary agent Nathan Bransford asks what we’ve had to give up in life to write. It’s all about balance, with a healthy dose of time management thrown in. But remember, you’re a writer, you write, that’s what you do. Anything and everything else comes second place.

So stop reading this and start typing. And I’ll stop sounding like a lame-ass motivation expert on a semi-guilt trip (did I mention I only cranked out 500 words this morning?) and get back to the book.

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