Small Setbacks and Bigger Opportunities

December 12, 2005

An earlier Book post discussed how great it felt to over-deliver on my first milestone. I hit 100 pages in June, when the target had been 50 by the end of July.

So what happened after all this euphoria? I slacked off. I avoided sitting down at the computer. I wrote a grand total of 47 pages between the beginning of July and the end of September. The worst is, I had more time to write. I just didn't. Suddenly, hitting 200 pages by the end of October looked daunting, and I started to panic.

A combination of factors piled up around July and produced detrimental results. First, my work project finished. My usual reaction after shipping a video game is relief followed by exhaustion. I had spent the last three months working long hours, supplemented by the writing. The game went gold, and my immune system collapsed - the very next day. I was down for the count with one of those bad colds that leaves me coughing for six weeks.

Then my vacation started. I took five weeks off work in August. The first two were spent bumming around the Gulf Islands on the boat, catching up on my reading. Not only did I treat this time as vacation from work, but also as vacation from writing. I was resting my brain. Hmm hmm hmm. Cue the cynical snorts from the audience...

The last three weeks were supposed to be spent adjusting to working from home. The plan was to divide my time equally between boat maintenance projects that had been left for too long, and the book. What really happened is that the boat became a construction zone, with paint dust and shrouded polypropylene drop cloths everywhere as I tried to repaint the ceilings. I thought I could have the whole boat done by the end of August. In reality, November rolled in before the aft and forward cabins were completed. There's nothing like a visit from one's parents to hurry up a renovation project. The worst is the main cabin still isn't started...

Although the numbers in my writing log don't show it, September started to see an improvement. See, I had pulled off a minor coup at work, and had convinced the company that a job share was worth trying. As of Labour Day, I resumed work at only three days per week. I now have two full days a week to focus on writing. After three years of speaking to various people at the company about part-time work and hitting brick walls and skepticism, I finally found a kind-hearted soul who convinced the powers that be that a job share was a good thing. There are days when I still pinch myself that I have this wonderful arrangement. Another woman returning from maternity leave was looking for part-time work; she does the same job I do and the manager in question was willing to support and try a job share. The timing was perfect.

My two days a week of writing in September started fitfully. It sounds odd, but it took a while to adapt to having a full day to myself to write. September was a learning period. I caught up on medical appointments I'd been neglecting. I figured out what schedule worked best to walk the dog. I did do some reading as research for the book, but between the painting project and other procrastination, I logged only five days of actual writing during the whole month.

At the end of September, I looked at the calendar and realized I only had one month to write 51 pages if I was to hit my October milestone. My stomach tightened into knots and my sleep suffered.

Next time: whaddaya know? There's nothing like a deadline to kick one into high gear.

Books read on writing during the period covered by this post

Scene and Structure, by Jack M. Bickham

Postscript: I would like to extend an enormous thank you to my company for supporting my efforts to write this novel. The video game industry is not known for its alternative working arrangements; this job share is the first of its kind at the company. I would not have been able to accomplish my goals without this wonderful opportunity and the support of many of my peers and colleagues.

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