Wednesday, 26 August 2009

(Ab)normal service is resumed

Hello again, faithful followers! (If I were Hannibal Lecter, I could count you all on the fingers of one hand. Am I complaining about the small number? No, I'm not, and I'll explain why in a minute.)

There has been a long gap since my last post here. That gap can be explained in one word.


For the past four months, I've been refining and industrializing the process of writing. Well, to be more precise, the process of writing fiction as a part-time job, relying on something else (a job) to pay the bills.

It seems, from the many people I've chatted to on Goodreads and from reading other writers' blogs, that writers seem to fall into three distinct groups.

One group is made up of those select few who are good enough and persistent enough to be able to write full time. Like the upper class, this is the group the rest of us want to join.

Another group is made up of the stay-at-homes. Although burdened with children, dogs, household chores etc., they can fit in a fair amount of writing time per day, in an unpredictable pattern.

The final group is made up of those (like me) who have to go out and work to pay the bills. Our writing is fitted in during the time we manage to chisel loose from our non-work hours.

I would have used the term 'free time' but free time seems to be a very malleable concept. To me it means any time when I'm not doing paid work, eating, washing or sleeping. To my wife, it means any time I'm not being co-opted to take out the trash, wash dishes, shift heavy objects, redecorate rooms or joining her for theatre/cinema/friends/dinners/TV/social events (weddings, funerals, christenings, birthdays etc).

I think this partly stems from her perception of my writing. To her, it's a hobby, on a par with angling or trainspotting. To me, it's work. Alright, it's work that doesn't yet pay, but one day it will.

It's the lack of a guaranteed return that makes it a pastime rather than a profession.

You might point out, quite reasonably, that any self-employed person, or anyone who owns their own company, spends perhaps a third of their working time doing stuff that may produce a return but isn't guaranteed to - things like product development, research and training to position the company ahead of future trends.

Well, yes. I have been self-employed. I do own a company. I have never managed to convince my wife that producing e.g. a software product, which may or may not sell in bulk, is anything other than 'messing around on a computer'. Writing is similar 'messing'.

Which brings me back to infrastructure. To the industrialization of the writing process - the establishment of a set of processes that take a certain amount of time to produce a defined end-product. Third parties are involved with this end product. It is tangible. It has weight.

Explaining it in this way to my wife has finally managed to lift writing out of the hobby category into an alternative niche - not quite paid work, but of higher status than stamp collecting. Involving third parties has been a definite plus.

Consider yesterday's conversation.

"Darling, I have to finish version 1.0 of this book. I have readers booked to critique it at the start of September."

"Well, how long is it going to take to finish?" she asks, quite sensibly.

"Thirty hours."

A quick glance at the calendar establishes that I need to be doing four hours a day, minimum, in order to meet this deadline. Free time becomes more organized immediately. Anyway, I really didn't want to go and see a performamce of the Soweto Gum-boot Dancers, so it's a double victory.

Tomorrow, I'll explain how I have regularized the writing process so it's just another evening in the office. How I have set up the conveyor belt of writing. And bits about time management and writer's block.

Oh, and why aren't I complaining about lack of followers?

Because writing each post takes time. Reading each post takes time. Answering each reply takes time. If I didn't have anything worthwhile to write, why should I waste my time and yours by doing it anyway?

But, thanks to the marvels of the conveyor belt system, I now have some extra time available each day to write useful stuff about writing, books and the creative process. I now have time to be abe to respond on a daily basis to each and every comment or query.

So by all means network this blog, tweet it, recommend it to your followers, mention it on MySpace, Facebook, Goodreads, Smashwords and anywhere else you have influence.
Be sure to mention that in the future, I shall be blogging every day, although many posts may be shorter than this one.

Enjoy the rest of the day!


  1. The last long-term relationship (any that makes it longer then three months falls under that category) I had, I believe I was about three or four years into pursuing my writing career. Like you, I was working a full time job, which in the states means leaving at 7:30 and sometimes not arriving home till 10pm. Although he was very supportive and indeed enthusiastic about the possibilities of my writing career; life became a totally different story when I actually sat at the computer. After I left him and the job (neither which allowed time for writing)and started my own business I could operate from my home I set a more serious plan in motion... yet of course, little did I know at that time my home business would have to operate from my car or tent... Oh, my attorney daughter begged for me to move back east to live with her. She feared my safety and thought me daft. I stayed determined. I "suffered" for my art, my dream. . . and I do mean suffered. A dream long on the back burner, 20 years, to raise my daughter. And indeed, if given a redo I believe I wouldn't change a thing...

  2. Barbara, I've been married for 25 years, raised two grown-up, and generally decided what I was going to do and then done it.

    Yes, of course, you balance selfishness versus responsibility: after all, you need to feed and house your loved ones. But you also have to feed and house your own dreams and desires.

    The only thing I can say is that if I decided to chuck a stable, mediocre, boring career to become self-employed, or to start my own company, it didn't matter if I made the right decision. I just had to make the decision right.
    I did. So did you. But you did it without a safety net. For which I salute you.

    No, I wouldn't change anything either. My wife might have different opinions, but she's still with me, and we still love each other.

    Thanks for following the blog, BTW. I'll try to keep you interested. :)