All those pages

Whenever anyone asks me how I am these days, the answer is “Fantastic! I finished my second novel!” I’m still floating from that accomplishment, and I’m thrilled to be right back at work on another novel, without feeling rushed, harried, guilty or pushed in any sense at all. When I submit my final report from this grant, I hope to be able to say that I completed two first drafts of two separate books with the aid of the Ontario Arts Council.

Several times I’ve heard, “I want to write a novel, too” or “I’ve got one half written, but I never have any time to sit down”. I remember Anita Daher’s advice to me, many years ago – okay, ten years, maybe. Not that long ago. (Really? Ten years? Damn.) She said to write five hundred words a day. That’s about two-thirds of a single-spaced page.

In spite of the fact that it is August already, I still feel as though I have eons of lovely writing time stretching out in front of me. Yes, I’m going to have to go back to work, but this has been the longest summer I’ve had at least since I was a child. Remember when July and August lasted forever? When the idea of summer coming to an end was – well, close to unthinkable? Really? It would? That’s rather how I’m feeling right now.

There’s good and bad to this. The good is obvious – that lovely feeling of relaxation and pointless happiness which is all too rare when you live with clinical depression. I’m not so relaxed that I figure I can put my writing off, because, after all, that is what has given me this summer away from the grind.

The bad is that I do tend to overbook, overextend and overestimate what I can do, especially when large spans of unprogrammed time lie ahead of me. Now I’m thinking with one part of my mind that I might actually get “Here be Dragons” finished before having to go back to work. Another part of me is saying, “Yeah, right!” and rolling her eyes.

I think part of the reason that my last few weeks look endless is that I know that I can make good use of any scraps of writing time I get. When I go back to work, I’ll go back to writing in the car. It won’t be two thousand words a day, but it will be progress, in the three-to-eight-hundred-word range, right in line with Anita’s advice.

If you don’t have daily time for your writing, maybe your writing isn’t a priority for you. That’s okay. It only has to be a priority if you say it is. But if it is, you don’t have to do the Stephen King route of a couple of thou every day. You can use smaller bits of time and do a smaller piece, as long as you do it. And one day you’ll look at your manuscript and say, “Hot damn! Where’d all those pages come from?” From you, my friend, that’s where.

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