I love my job. I’m prefacing with that because I don’t say it enough, but I am quite literally living the dream. I get to write books, see them published, and know people buy them — enough people that I can afford to do this full-time. Long may it last!
Before I quit my job — not because writing was making me a bazillionaire, but because I was so damn sick of the place I couldn’t think, they’d laid off everyone at my level except me and doubled the workload at the same time, and they refused me the only pay rise I’d requested in six years when I was already being paid considerably less than the going rate for my position — I wrote around work. That meant writing until three or even four in the morning, then getting up at seven to be in the office for eight. I did that for two years and at the end of it I was exhausted, and barely managing two novels a year. When I had my hissy fit and quit, a world of time opened up before me.Time to write. Time to go the extra mile on research. Time to catch up with my insanely long TBR pile. I was spoilt for time.
Then life intruded, as life does. Time is a vacuum, and any not spent in an office, toiling for The Man, soon becomes filled. My nan needed ferrying back and forth. My mum wanted some clothes returning to a shop. My dad wanted something posting. My sister wanted somebody to sit in her house and wait around for a boiler repair man, a contractor who was rebuilding her conservatory, someone from the gas board to change the meter. And I didn’t begrudge any of those things, but I couldn’t help noticing time was slowly but surely draining away.
When I quit work, I came up with a writing schedule. This was going to be my job now — or I’d give it a damn good go, anyway — which meant I needed to write more, better, faster. Four months to write a novel seemed ample when I could devote forty or fifty or sixty hours a week to it. Hell, four weeks seemed ample at that pace. So I’d start on Monday with the best of intentions, write 3k and feel pleased with myself. 3k/day x 5 days/week = a full novel in five or six weeks. Then on Tuesday would come the “Would you mind…?”, and I wouldn’t because there were still five days left in the week and technically I was a day ahead. Then Wednesday would come “Can you just…?” followed on Thursday by “As you’re not busy…” and Friday night would start the chorus of “OMG it’s only a couple of drinks, don’t be miserable,” and that couple of drinks would end up a messy all-nighter and before I knew it I was waking up on Sunday morning still only at 3k for the week.
“As you’re not busy,” was the one that always got my goat. There is simply no convincing people who work out of their homes for a living that sitting in my living room with a laptop is actual work. Yes, it’s much better than going to an office — I can have a pyjama day every day; I can sit up in bed, grab the lappy, and call myself ready if I want. It doesn’t matter if I go to bed late or sleep in. When something else comes up, I can take a day off. These are all wonderful aspects to working for myself from home.
The flipside, apart from everyone and his dog wanting an hour of my time, is that whenever I’m not working I feel like I’m cheating myself. If I go a day or two with 0 words entered into my spreadsheet (did I ever mention how much I love spreadsheets? Because I doooooooo!) I start to get antsy. I start working out how much extra I have to write in how short an amount of time to meet my deadlines. This last couple of months, moving to the U.S., packing everything up and travelling up and down to London at a moment’s notice because I’d been summoned by a doctor or the Embassy, has left me way behind where I wanted to be this year, and it’s driving me batty.
At least now I’m here, I’m semi-settled (once I get my SSN, a whole new To Do list becomes urgent), and I can start writing again. I’m still trying to find the way I work best: at home — yeah, I still say that — it was always at Starbucks, where I had my own table and I could tune everything out and hammer out the words; here I’m still trying to minimise distractions, most of which are down to me being a diva about the exact type of background noise I can tolerate. I’ll get there. My spreadsheet shows I wrote for five days out of the last seven, and on two of those days I actually hit my daily target — something I haven’t done consecutively since August, and reliably since May.
I’m getting there, slowly but surely. And Ryan’s Blowing It prequel is coming along. More detailed updates coming soon 😀