We've got ourselves a new puppy, a bouncy, happy, rambunctious miniature bull terrier bitch we're calling Sausage. Because Sausage is bouncy, happy, rambunctious, and young, she doesn't have much bowel or bladder control. This translates to many, many walks, emergency dashes and cleaning sessions while we train her to develop control and teach ourselves to read the pre-elimination signals. This has, and continues to be, a learning experience for the entire family.
As you can imagine, all this fussing and observing of a puppy has taken a large slice of time out of my day. I have a Day Job, write, parent and wife various areas of my life and now, it seems, I'm also puppy's mother and trainer.
Do you know what this has done to my current wip? Do you have any idea what this has done to my current wip? I'll tell you. Nothing. I'm still churning out 1,000+ words a day. (Of course, whether they're any good is a whole other question.) How can this be?
I'll let you in on my secret. Most times, by the time I sit down at my dinky little netbook to write, I already have at least one scene mapped out in my head. And do you know what? Taking a walk outside, and waiting for Sausage to come to her senses and realise exactly what it is I'm expecting her to do, gives me ample time to re-run scenarios in my head. If this character says something, how is the other one going to react? What if the inflection changes? What if the words are different? What if she's interrupted mid-sentence?
With one eye on Sausage, I can replay as many variations of a scene as I like, finetuning it to my heart's content. When I get one I like, I commit it to memory but I've also learnt that if I forget a scene I thought was terrific, that probably means there was something missing from it. No problem, just start again.
By the time I'm able to grab thirty minutes to actually put fingers to keyboard, I've rehashed a particular scene more than a dozen times over. It doesn't matter if I'm interrupted while I'm doing the actual writing; in fact, I often walk away from my machine literally in mid-sentence to answer the phone or see to the kids or pick someone up from somewhere. I may not get back to that interrupted sentence till the next day but, the important thing is, it doesn't matter. Because I've reworked the scene so many times, it's in my head. All I need to do is find snatches of time to continue getting it down before moving onto the next scene.
I'm not of the school that says you have to sit down and sweat blood before the words appear. Yes, that happens sometimes, especially when I'm working to a deadline. But, maybe as the result of my own mental rehearsals, I don't seem to get writer's block as much as other people appear to, and I'm usually never stumped for more than a day or two, at the very worst. Average is usually two to four hours.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that our modern lives are busy. Very busy. Busier than they've been in the past. Maybe in the eighteenth century, if you were the child of a successful merchant with money to burn, you could afford to sit, quill in hand, by the light of an oil lamp and agonise over your prose for days, or even weeks. Well, you try to do that now and you'll probably get kicked out of your house for not paying bills, and you'd be fired for not turning up at the office. Your pets would've eaten each other, your children would be starving to death, and various friends would've either rushed to your house with charity supplies, or written you off as an hopeless case. All this while you're trying to decide whether Florenza is lying or laying next to the babbling brook under a cerulean (or should that be "azure"? Let's ponder that for a couple of days) sky.
Nowadays, if we want to be successful writers, we have to learn to think smart so we can write smart. And whatever strategy we choose should work whether we've just thrown a Sausage into the works or not. So, are you writing smart?