I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because it also checks your grammar and it’s super embarrassing when my blog readers email me about bad grammar. It’s actually really cool, and it told me off about my pronoun use!
I am the kind of person who thrives with a routine and it’s even better if it’s a strict routine. At work I turn my phone off between 9 and 6 religiously. It took about two weeks to get used to it, and to try to reason with the panic that someone might Need Me, but in reality everybody who would need to contact me has MindReader’s mobile number and he has my work email and direct dial for emergencies. It was the strictness of the routine that both scared and appealed to me. I am a bit of an all-or-nothing person at the best of times, and I am not the kind of person who can have a casual relationship with her phone. I would check it, pressing the home button a lot, or when I was thinking, and then I’d be doing that instead of thinking, and the more you do that kind of thing the worse your attention span gets.
So when I started a role at work that required concentration for hours on large tasks I started the phone-off-and-in-a-drawer routine. Every day without excuses worked best for me. Even if the cat was at the vet. It was probably slightly weird when colleagues occasionally text me about what to do at lunch or wanted to see a photo but I stuck to it religiously. I was much happier for it. I learnt to concentrate for long periods and even stopped being a slave to the Outlook email/reminder notifications. I read a book called Getting Things Done and I learnt to finish tasks. Write tasks on a list, do them in order of urgency/importance and finish them then tick them off. Sounds easy, but working like that was something I found hard and something I had to learn to do.
And now I find myself, of course, without any kind of routine except eating my lunch with the afternoon episode of Neighbours. And I also find myself with some things that need to be done. Not pressing things or urgent things or massively important things but things I want to do: having a bite from some literary agents has cemented in my mind that I might actually be able to publish a book at some point in my life (and indeed that I really do quite a lot want to) and so I am writing the second novel while the first is with agents. It’s hard, writing a novel. I am reluctant to write quite how hard I find it here lest one such agent reads it and thinks I am not a natural, but it’s so hard. It’s lonely – both in that you can’t speak to anyone while doing it and also that you create a world and the characters and it’s you that has to take the leap with them – and it requires a certain level of arrogance (or at least just trying to keep the ‘THIS IS SHIT’ thoughts at bay) and discipline: you can’t wait to be inspired, you have to show up every day and be working when inspiration finds you.
So I am trying to instill a routine into my strange, work-less days that I hope will stick when I’m back at work – on weekends. I have to start taking writing seriously and not treating it as a hobby that gets shifted down the priority list whenever something better comes along. It’s hard to take your own writing time seriously; to not think that cooking the dinner would be more useful for everybody. You have to believe, and I find that hard, but nevertheless, I have to finish the task.
So I have set myself a new phone-off routine. It’s not quite like my other routine – I don’t think nine hours a day is necessary for writing a novel and I tend to do my best work in a couple of two-hour bursts. But it’s there, and hopefully in the showing up every day, the words will come.