Discipline

I had a horrible night last night. Sometimes the words just arrive and the keyboard takes a relentless, hour-long pounding. Other times that blinking cursor on the screen is sneering at you and laughing, the little shit.

Last night I pushed through two (or was it three?) chapters and not because it was easy, and not because it was hard and I wanted to show the cursor who was boss. But because I keep missing my targets.

It all started on the weekend.

No. I don’t know when it started actually. Probably that time someone told me that you should write every day. No chance, I told them, no way. I have a life, a job, I have a conviction that I must be in the correct frame of mind to write something. A bad mood or a lack of enthusiasm tends to produce not just bad writing, but frustration.

But that theory fails to hold water. Indeed, that theory is a large part of the reason that Gatecrasher took 11 (eleven) years to get done.

So my new rule is: 1,000 words / 1 chapter day. I don’t always manage it. Indeed, last week I managed almost nothing. Then the weekend arrived with no plans, no commitments – just an overgrown garden, the grocery shopping, a broken microwave, a Sunday roast and the new swimming pools opening down the road .

Now that should not, under any circumstances, have filled a weekend. But fill a weekend it did, because the garden was more overgrown than I had accounted for, with brambles and a weird flatness to the grass which defied the strimmer. The strimmer which then ran out of strimmer cable halfway through the job, meaning I had to get in the car and head to the shop for some more.

Then the grocery / microwave shopping seemed to fill the afternoon, followed by making the roast.

So my target for Sunday night of 30,000 words, seemed eminently achievable at the start of the weekend. But I did not sit down at the computer until nearly 7 on Sunday. And then spent ages tidying up the document and cutting out all my notes into a separate document which made me realise that the word count I thought I was on was false and that just pushed the 30,000 further off into the future.

But then I still managed the thousand and a little more. And last night when I sat down I was inching nearer and nearer to a target – not the word count, which is arbitrary but measurable. I mean the word count can be cheated. I can pad my way to a higher word count with the best of them mate, don’t think I can’t. If I want to pad, pad I can. Pad away. Pad for ages. Pad and pad and pad until the very word pad begins to lose its meaning. I pad. Right now I pad on my iPad.

But there was a scene, the idea of which has been in my mind for a while, just waiting there for all the other scenes I hadn’t written yet to get written so that I could write that scene.

And it wasn’t a fun, fluid scene that just wrote itself and spilled off my fingers down the page. Bastard fought me all the way until it was done, hammered and wrestled into place. I cannot think about the re-write now, the re-write and the edit that must come. I am too bruised.

I had a horrible night. I needed an early night but cooked two meals (one for tonight, so it will be ready when I get home) and ironed several shirts too. I got to bed at 12.30, mind still buzzing with the next scene, next chapter, ideas that will not get written down because I needed sleep. But as I lamented the lateness and my lack of sleep this morning and whatever lines or ideas had slipped away last night I am finding that I’m feeling rather happy with myself.

Staying up late because I am in the grip of a story is the kind of tired I can be content with. And I haven’t really been in this kind of mode since I was knee deep in Gatecrasher and deeply enthused by the story.

One thousand words a day. Its working. The simplest thing, but its working.

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