Structure II

Posted on October 20th, 2011 in process

It was about a month ago now I was proudly declaring the advent of new working practices, in which rigid timekeeping would lead to greater productivity and happiness.  Has it been a success?  Well … yes and no.

You wouldn’t have thought it would be hard to find two two hour blocks of time in which to work each day, along with two other single hours in which to handle email and business related correspondence.  But actually, when you’ve got three kids, it kind of is.  Certainly it is to find them at the same time every day.  Stuff comes up, time gets nibbled into, and before you know it you’re starting your block ten minutes late, or half an hour late, or having to split it into an hour here and another later, getting called to some emergency half way through, and the ideal notion of rigid timekeeping starts to dissolve.  You tell yourself there are exceptional circumstances today, but exceptional circumstances of one kind or another come up with depressing regularity and I’d be very surprised if I’ve managed more than two or three days in the whole month where I’ve stuck closely to the plan.

That said, on those days when I have stuck to the plan the productivity has been ridiculous.  Last week I managed 8,500 words, and words I consider reasonably good, including nearly 3,000 in one day, which is my best day in a long time, and I also managed to keep pace with a whole set of administrative tasks as well.  It somewhat depressingly reveals how bad the procrastination can be at other times.  This week, because of one thing and another, and partly because I’ve spent some time thinking and planning rather than just straight writing, I’ve only done about 1,500 in three days, which is useless.  Need some good days today and tomorrow to make up that shortfall.

Overall I’d have to consider it a success, though, just one that needs to be constantly worked at and reaffirmed to keep effective.  Right.  Now for two hours work.  Except I’ve got to pick up the kids at three so maybe just an hour now and then catch up the rest later.  Except I do have that stuff about foreign deals to attend to and some paperwork for my accountant and, and, and…

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  1. My word of advice that I find sometimes hard to follow but which usually leads to results: “Step away from the marvelous world of internet and start working.”
    Good luck with it!

  2. Sounds like you’re being a little hard on yourself.

    I’m not sure I see the logic behind an 8500 word week being ridiculously productive and a 3500 word week (which is what you’d be on pace for with 1500 words over three days) being “useless” …? There’s a difference there, but it’s not exactly humungous.

    Also, when in doubt, just add in some sparkly vampires. I hear they’re all the rage these days.

  3. I take care of my little brother and sister, and when I want to do something for a long period of time I have to take them aside, let them know they are on their own, and that if there is a real true “somebody-is-bleeding” emergency, they can find me at the library. It’s the only way I can ever get work done.

    Of course, they always seem a bit traumatized by the time I get back but I just let them know I love them… but work requires sacrifice? Or something.

    When they were still babies and I wanted to get something done, I found it best to put them in one of those tiny vibrating baby-chairs and make weird faces at them for random intervals. It seemed to keep them amused.

  4. So, let me see if I understand. You work 4 hours a day… Sometimes.

    :)

  5. As someone with a rather large skillset in terms of being an administrative assistant throughout several years, I would gladly sort the heavy duty stuff for ya Joe…but alas, I live in the States. Hell, I’d volunteer for it if I could. After all…I want more realistic fantasy for my own entertainment purposes. Of all the fantasy writers out there these days you deserve it. Maybe hire a broke college student who has no clue what they’re getting into in terms of watching three children. There are options out there.

    However, all of your mail and official coorespondence paperwork would come with slight blood smears, gushes, and the edges might be somewhat burned…I kid, I kid.

  6. I second Mr. Woods in that I think you’re being a shade too hard on yourself.

    I don’t have kids myself, but I do have a nephew and niece and have a very approximate idea of how difficult it must be to juggle working from home with looking after the kiddiwinks. I hope your back’s holding up, incidentally.

  7. Just concentrate on the writing thing and stop counting. No wonder you get bugger all done , you’re too busy counting words and patting yourself on the back.

  8. Working 4 hours a day writing. Working other hours of the day with accounting business, foreign rights, editing, email, blogging, etc adds up too I imagine.

    These are my favourite posts to read. Thanks!

  9. You have my sympathy, trying to get work done with your young children in the same house.

    If you can maintain your intention to do the work and keep to your plan as best you can then the exceptions should remain exceptional. I think, also, that as those around you get used to your routine then the distractions will reduce a little.

  10. Joe, just wanted to say thank you for giving us insights into your working process and the difficulties you encounter. I’m someone who struggles with making time for creative endeavours myself. And I actually find it inspiring and heartening to know that even an artist such as yourself, who consistenly and rapidly puts out first-class material, fights with these things.

  11. Hi Joe,
    Perhaps you just need to get out of that environment completely. Get a friend/relative/nanny to look after the kids for a couple of hours at an alloted time in the day. Then pick up a laptop, notebook or something, get in the car and drive to somewhere quiet and out of the way and just sit there and write, even if it’s just sat in your car. You might even find some new inspiration or ideas to add to your piece by writing in different places.

    Worth a shot anyhow. Looking forward to your next book :-)

  12. I bet it is. That’s why most employers still insist employees work primarily from home. Outside the fact some jobs require a physical presence, employers want their workers focused on their jobs and isolated from everyday distractions of home.

  13. Joe,

    If those kids are proving a bother I’d happily take them of your hands if that means more and faster writing. :D

  14. Joe,

    While I don’t have three kids my one daughter is enough to keep me from even going to the bathroom on the days I have by myself with her.

    Good luck.

  15. A-drain,

    Keep you from going to the bathroom? Crikey, you must have a bladder of steel. When you and the bathroom have been kept apart for so long just make sure she doesn’t make you laugh too much!

  16. I guess those are the times…

  17. Hi Joe. I’m a new follower and reader. Currently, I’m in the middle of your First Law Trilogy. I have to say it reads like a breath of fresh air.

    Some of your more loyal readers might disagree, but there’s no need to feel bad about your progress if you’re making time for family. It just means you’ve got your priorities in order.

  18. Ah Joe, being a tax person myself, I congratulate you on getting your stuff to your accountants on time. Being creative and having to attend to dull admin stuff must be a pain. I follow Neil Gaiman’s blog, and admin and logistics seem to play a huge part in his life. It is a wonder you get anything done at all, especially with the little ones around. I do struggle with his writing though, much prefer yours.

  19. Here’s the way I see it. Joe’s given us a quality book every 18 months or so? That’s a heck of a lot better than my other two (favorite) fantasy authors George Martin ans Patrick Rothfuss.

  20. With Joe we get the best of both worlds. Quality and Quantity! Keep up the great work Joe!

  21. My wife and I discovered as we added each of our three kids to the mix, our free time went down further. The first one hit us the hardest, but each child requires a certain amount of time per day.

    Add that up with other responsibilities and it can definitely eat into your time in general.

    I’d say your best bet would be to try and find a neighbor’s kid to come over and watch them (while you are in the house) for a few hours a day so you can concentrate on your writing.

    You’d still be available to handle real emergencies while the neighbor’s kid could take care of snacks, arguments, diaper-changes, playing, drinks, more snacks, starting movies/TV shows, answering questions, taking them outside to play, etc.

    My wife (girlfriend at the time) did this for her neighbors for several years – she’d go over after school (or after class once she started college) and watch their two girls while the Mom worked from her home office. She made some money and the Mom was able to get her work completed.

  22. 8,500 words in a week.

    In my dreams!

    I’m an aspiring full-time(ish) writer, and goodness knows I’m trying hard, but being honest (too honest) I’m averaging a chapter every 3 weeks and about 10,000 decent words PER MONTH.

    Quality work comes in short (for me very, very short) bursts.

    Believe in yourself, Mr A. I know you have to work hard, but you’re very clever, talented, and funny. Damn it, even reading your interviews gets me giggling.

  23. Hey Joe,
    so, do you attend NaNoWriMo? November has just started and it might help to close the upcoming weeks with wordcounts that rock.
    Best regards, Nion

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