Changing the Process

Yesterday, Ann Aguirre wrote a post about how her writing habits have changed, for the better, and how she has become so prolific. Her post-apocalyptic YA series that starts in Enclave is fantastic. In her post she says this:

Process is not a permanent, indelible thing.

This statement, while I am applying it to writing, can be applied to any work process. It made me think about how my process has changed over the last ten years and that we should be examining our processes periodically to improve them.

When I had an office job, my writing process involved sitting down in my office, closing the door, cranking music, and hacking away. No one interrupted me (well, sometimes) and I could write until I was done with that thought, post, or article. At the time, I did not understand the blessing of interrupted time.

When I needed to write something longer than 1k, like an article or when I wrote my Library Technology Report, I needed whole chunks of time to think and write. I needed to be able to spread out my research and papers in a large area that would not be touched. I needed music.

I left my library job to become a mom and many things in my life changed, but my writing and working process did not. This caused much anxiety as I was writing Mob Rule Learning, which I did in about 5 months. Because I thought I needed those large chunks of time, which you do not have as a parent of a small child, I was only able to write when someone else could watch the Bairn. Since that was not always an option, I started writing while he was playing on his own, which is only in small chunks of time. Sometimes very, very small chunks.

After finishing Mob Rule Learning, I decided to tackle the writing project I have always wanted to do. I wanted to write a book of fiction. With two small kids, instead of one, I had to reassess my process.

It was hard and at first I was more frustrated than anything else. I would write two sentences and be interrupted. A scene would just start to form and then there was whining and crying, usually mine, as I had to feed, change, or console one of the boys.

With a detailed plot outline in hand, I found I could work in smaller amounts of time. My boys are allowed to watch no more than 1-1.5 hours of TV a day and I usually use that time to write. I used to write with headphones and music blaring. Now, I write to the music of Dinosaur Train, Sesame Street, Justice League, and Iron Man. I still wear headphones, but I can only wear one earbud, two if I do not turn it up too loud.

I find those small cracks in the day to write. Some days, I am lucky and will have two hours of mostly uninterrupted time. Those are the days I can churn out 2-3k. Other days, I am lucky to turn my computer on at all. I have learned to accept and take what is offered, but I make time when it is there.

It took me a year, mostly because I was doing some learning about writing fiction verses nonfiction, to write the first book. I have been working on the second one for a month now and the first draft is halfway done.

The difference in my pace is due mostly to the fact that I changed my process. I taught myself to write in smaller segments. There is always something we can improve in our process, whatever your work may be. We just have to brave enough to peer closely at our own habits and pull the weeds holding back our garden.

I still prefer to sit alone for 2-4 hours with music blaring to churn out words. I revel in that, but I do not need that anymore.

–Jane, some weeds are pretty and harder to remove

p.s. I wrote this with Dinosaur Train on the TV and Mumford and Sons crooning quietly in my ear.