You know what the worst thing about writing is? Everything but the actual writing. It’s the wind-up and the research. As much as I enjoy going down research rabbit holes, they are time-consuming!
When I was in college, I wrote for the student newspaper and had a weekly opinion column. If memory serves, the deadline was Sunday evening. So, what did I do? I spent the entirety of Sunday “writing” the column. Now, the actual writing part took maybe 30 minutes, at most? Writing out 750-1,000 words, depending on how frisky I wanted to get with my word limit. The next hour consisted of tidying up the draft. You know what the other six hours were? Winding up to write. Or researching.
Also in college, I obviously had to write a lot of papers for a variety of courses. You know what I did? Took out an entire day (or two, or three) to write. Again, the actual writing, depending on the length of the paper, never took that long. It was the wind-up and the research.
What I’m describing here is rather unique to the deadline aspect. That is, up against a hard deadline, this sort of wind-up and research madness occurs. If I’m writing for fun, the wind-up and research doesn’t come included because I just write when I feel like writing and when that adrenaline drip hits. Granted, there are those in the writing community and certainly those who are successful writers, who tell you that you should write every single day and create those hard deadlines for yourself. As in, discipline yourself and train yourself to write every day. If that works for those people, whew, more power to ’em. But it doesn’t work for me. Because those are still “soft” deadlines. I haven’t yet figured out how to create the discipline to pretend those soft deadlines are hard deadlines. I have more to say on deadlines in a different post, so I digress.
The point is, I always felt that those who are non-writers never quite appreciate the time it takes to write. That is, the time that’s necessary for the wind-up and the research to occur before the actual writing occurs. Those who aren’t writers think if you’re a writer, you just sit down and write. And again, maybe that’s how it actually is for some writers! But for me, when faced with a hard deadline, I need to know in my head that I have the entire day ahead of me to just put my mind to writing. Yes, that’s going to involve procrastinating and doing everything but the actual act of writing, but I see it as all part of the “process.”
Even just writing that out seems like complete BS, huh? That if I have a 750-word opinion piece due at 5 p.m. on a Sunday, I need that entire Sunday, basically, to be carved out and protected as “writer time.” But it’s true. And it was true. And it worked. It was successful. Every Sunday, I cranked an opinion piece out, and every Sunday, I needed to know I had that Sunday time to be able to do that.
There’s something psychological and mental about knowing the entire day is available. If you tell me I have the morning to crank out an opinion piece, but I have X, Y, and Z things I need to go do in the afternoon and evening, it’s going to mess me up. Or conversely, if you tell me I have X, Y, and Z things to do in the morning, but I’ll have the afternoon and evening to write, it’s going to mess me up. Hence, then, why I’m protective of the entire day. I’m taking those hard deadlines seriously!
But as I said, non-writers think on those days, I’m being lazy or think I have nothing to do that day.
It reminds me of what other writers have said, like that J.K. Rowling quote: Protect your writing space. That can be hard when people don’t get the wind-up and research process and how time-consuming it can be, but all in all, that wind-up and research process is worth it for the explosion of creativity, and the rush of adrenaline that happens when the actual writing happens. It’s like setting the stage so the magic can happen on the blank page.
Do you know what I’m talking about? Are you one of those writers who also needs a lot of runway to be able to take off, as it were?