My time off from work is fast approaching its end, so I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned while at home. I know that the events of 2020 have tainted my experiences somewhat, but I believe I can identify where that impact was. Especially when it came to productivity.
The main thing I realised, without doubt, is that I’d like this to be my normal life and not the exception. I loved being home and being able to set my own timelines, including when I write. But that was hardly a surprise.
The following things are true for me and my experience:
Editing is much easier to force. When I’m feeling like I don’t want to be at the computer, I can usually force myself to edit, regardless of my mood or how tired I am. The same cannot be said for writing new words. Editing is something I feel I could do equally as well when I’m working when I’m restricted to night time and weekend work only.
If I hit a block in a story, it’s because I’m not asking myself the right questions. When you frame the question as ‘what happens next’ it can be overwhelming. I discovered it is far more productive to frame it as ‘what if the car crashed?’ or ‘why didn’t she look in the bag?’ Those are questions I can answer and are far more likely to lead to the next bit of the story.
Walking is nearly as key to writing a new story as writing. If I sit at the computer and pose questions to myself, I’ll often draw a blank or be distracted by the internet. If I’m out walking, I find it easier to focus on possible answers. Most days I’ll came back from a walk ready to get on with the story.
New ideas are far more abundant when I’m not working. I have been amazed at how many new short stories I’ve written while I’ve been home. If I include the unfinished shorts, I’d be at about two dozen stories in six months. In the whole of last year I wrote only two short stories and came up with another two ideas. This is the saddest bit about going back to work.
Rejection doesn’t get easier. I have a lot of stories out at the moment, and every rejection still hurts. I thought with a lot more it wouldn’t feel so bad, but they still sting the same. The difference is that while I’ve been home, because I had so many out there, I still had hope that the next response would be positive (and some have been). Last year I was shopping around one short story, so it was a much bigger deal when that got the thumbs down.
Oh well. I guess I now know exactly what I’m looking forward to in retirement. Weekends will have to sustain me for a few more years yet.