This week has been all about adjusting my expectations of available work time. Last weekend, I was determined: I would spend at least two hours on Sunday banging out a short story draft that has been languishing in my “to-do” pile for months. But when Sunday came around, it quickly became clear that 1) with everybody else home from work, opportunities to socialize which don’t crop up during the week were too tempting, 2) I need more than a couple of hours to make short fiction progress, and 3) there are about 10,000 other things I need to do on the weekends when I have kid-help in the form of available other adults (like, you know, laundry. Or taking a shower). Not things I can just push off indefinitely, either, but things that get piled up during the week because I don’t have time or opportunity to do them, in part because I do a great job using my available time during the week for writing. But eventually, the hammer has to come down, and household tasks do need to be done, and it’s a lot easier to do that on the weekends when I’ve got some extra help.
Also, I enjoy socializing with adults! During the week, I get a bit of this in the AM before my mother heads in to work, but otherwise, my days are pretty kid-centric, and it’s nice on the weekends to be able to talk about things other than LEGO, the LEGO game we have on our Switch, or…you know…farts. Because I live in a house of boys. 30% LEGO talk; 70% farts.
In addition to those two realizations, I also recognized pretty quickly while looking at the amount of work in my short fiction “to-do” pile that a couple hours here and there (even if I could guarantee focus and lack of interruptions) is just never going to cut it. Once-a-week work on short pieces isn’t enough to keep them accessible in my head, which means it takes time to even get ramped up on them before I can start working on them, and there goes the efficiency of that work slot on the weekends.
No, looking at this past weekend, I realized I cannot expect to work on writing over the weekend except on the very rare occasions when I need to get edits back to people or classwork submitted. And instead of feeling guilty all the time for not maximizing every single free hour of my days, and instead of cutting lose a Snoopy-esque wail of despair that I’ll just never, never, never have time to work on short fiction if I ever want to write books (or at least, not until the kiddos are big enough to BOTH be in school, which is some years off yet), I’ve made a decision: I’m going to have to split my weeks.
I need to write at least 2k/week on the novel to keep on track with its progress to meet classwork expectations (that’s essentially 500/day, though I more typically hit 750-1500 on any given day, meaning I tend to pump out closer to 4-5k/week). That means, in theory, I hit my required word count on the book by the end of Tuesday or Wednesday (if I’m having an off-week, or naps are scattered). If I didn’t just push forward on the book for the rest of the week, which is what I have been doing, that would give me two to three days of easily an hour to an hour and a half to focus entirely on short work. It’d be more than the two hour slot on the weekend, it’d keep the current short story WIP more front-of-mind than it currently is which (hopefully) means less ramp-up time those days since I’ll be anticipating working on it, and it’s REGULAR.
And that’s really what I want: regular, dependable short fiction time. Because I love writing short fiction. I’m not nearly as good at it as I’d like to be, but I’m getting there, and I don’t want to backslide too much. I WANT to write both books and short stories, which means I have to find a way to fit them both in consistently, so this seems like a reasonable option. We’ll try it, and see if it works. I’ve thought in the past of splitting my days–working on 200 words of short fiction, and then picking up the novel work–but in truth, my brain rarely cooperates with me switching mid-stride like that, and I’m always loathe to stop working on something if it’s working, which means the novel would more likely suffer from “brainwaves” happening on short stories. And this segmenting of my week into long-form/short-form may actually help the novel writing in that it’ll give me more time to percolate and think about how I want to tackle upcoming scenes (as speed isn’t always my friend when I haven’t had enough time to think about what I’m trying to accomplish).
Also, setting daily writing goals–not word count, but specific targets, like “today, I want to write the scene where Cordelia meets her secret step-uncle for the first time and he freaks her out.”–really helps, I’ve found. In the past two days alone since starting that habit again, I’ve been so much more focused in my writing sessions, I’ve actually knocked out 3,300 words in two days. That’s NUTS. And what’s more: they feel like better scenes!
In the fantastic news department, I recently found out I sold my weird short story, “Candyland” (where-to, not yet disclosable)! Very excited about this one finding a good home! This will be my first official sale of 2021, and also a bit of a driver to write and polish up some new fiction, because I’ve only got a couple still circulating!
And “More than Instinct” came out in Daily Science Fiction on Wednesday! Hooray! Very excited about that weird story, too. So short, but quite close to my heart.
And that’s it for this week! I’ve got to get up my coursework submission, but otherwise, my goal is to have a pleasant weekend with the fam, no productivity guilt invited! Have a great one and stay safe and healthy, all!