A Dad and a Writer – Year One

What a year it’s been. Also – it’s been a year already!?!

Having a kid is life-changing. Forget everything you think you know about fatigue, time management, or even motivation: there were many, many evening in the last year when I could barely fire up Twitch to look at someone else play a game. So writing… yeah, not that easy to fit in the schedule.

Don’t get me wrong – my son is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. But there’s no pussyfooting around it: if you’re trying to take a fun hobby and make something more out of it, the first year with a baby is the worst possible time to do it.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have tried to get Book the First published this year. It became an additionnal source of stress and fatigue at a time when I couldn’t really afford it, and I was too tired to assess my manuscript properly and to write good queries.

So I think I wasted a good opportunity there. But on the other hand, few people ever get their first manuscript published. And while in a sense I lost a year trying to pitch a book that probably never had a shot at finding an agent, the truth is that I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot with that year anyway.

On the plus side, I think I’m a pretty good dad. And I’m honest enough to admit that I should have ramped up my productivity, oh, two or three weeks ago. But it’s hard to come back from time off when you’re the only one putting pressure on yourself.

Well… let’s look forward, shall we? I have goals for the next year, but I want to do a better job at juggling all those responsibilities and sources of stress. I have to avoid that soul-crushing crunch time and those late-night writing sessions, and instead make good use of the time I know I can devote to writing without driving myself insane. Since my son is now going to daycare five days a week and my girlfriend going back to work soon, there will be dedicated writing time slots.

Now it’s on me to use them like an adult.

The Great Fall Task List

All right, so what am I planning for the rest of the year?

1-Writing an average of 500 words a week on Book the Second. That’s not a lot, and I feel I should be able to do better than that, but let’s stick to something I’m sure I can do.

2-Get back on track for my blog schedule, my reading list, etc. I’m on track for the reading list, being almost done with Proust (and then the rest is just entertaining fiction or short.) For the blogs, I have thirty Secret Project blog posts ready to go (with more in the pipeline) so I should be able to make up for lost ground fairly easily.

3-Finish a thorough review-and-fix of Book the First and have it published online. My revisions are the main holdup, although I’m also waiting on a cover page suggestion.

4-Once I get my cover page, I’ll do the long-awaited switch-to-a-custom-look for this blog. At the same time, I’ll officially try to turn that into an “official” writing blog, complete with tip jar to beg for money and email to ask for writing jobs.

To get that to work, I’ve decided to rely on an computerized todo list – I’m using Todoist – so that I can manage my time efficiently. I still need to write down everything I need to do but at least I can do that once when I’m motivated, and then have the guilt to motivate me. We’ll see how this works out!

 

 

Summer Breaking

Well, it’s probably obvious, but my productivity has collapsed in the last few weeks. There’s no exciting explanation for it, it’s just fatigue.

So I’ve decided to allow myself a few weeks of, well, not vacation exactly, but lessened demands on my time. I’m still writing, I’m still working on getting Book the First published, I’m still working on the various projects… just without my usual impossible-to-complete task list.

So what have I accomplished lately? Well, I’m doing yet another editing pass on Book the First. I’m also working on getting someone to draw a cover image for it. I’ll probably also use said image as the basis for the visual theme of the blog, so there’s that.

As far as writing goes, I’m trying to get back in the habit of writing every day, even if it’s just a sentence or two. It’s frustrating – I’m just tired enough that getting started on writing is hard. Once I have the file open in front of me, I can keep going for a while, but getting that file open is tougher than it should be.

My various post series are… not progressing at the moment (although I’m slowly making my way through the first book of À la recherche du temps perdu, so expect a Just my Opinion post at some point.

But overall, I’m just trying to return to healthier energy levels. And it’s working, just not as fast as I’d like.

Story of my life, I guess.

 

A Dad and a Writer: Month 10

I went back to work this month. Paternity leave was great, but it’s unfortunately not infinite. But I’m thankful for the rest, especially considering that the month turned out to be very, very busy with uninteresting stuff.

That said, I’ve tried to keep to a stricter schedule this month, and it helped with writing. In a way, being at work helps, because it gives structure to my day. Admittedly, the structure is “wake up, help with baby, go to work, return home, help with baby, work on writing/projects for an hour, collapse in bed”, but it’s actually more productive than “wake, do random stuff, go to bed.”

Honestly, by this point, if all I did was write a novel, I’d be able to progress at a slow, but satisfying rate. Having a 9-going-on-10 months old baby is not actually that much of an impediment to writing. Taking care of a three-months-old baby is mentally draining in a way an older kid isn’t: you’re constantly stressing out over everything, and you can’t see an end to it. By contrast, by now my son can communicate if something’s not well, he makes constant progress, and he can play by himself (with supervision, but still.)

And… he’s starting daycare. Which means my girlfriend will finally have some time off, which means she’ll eventually be able to help with household chores, which means *I’ll* be less tired… (plus, I usually have a day off during the week, so I’ll actually have one glorious day a week to write uninterrupted.

But even if I didn’t…. for the first time in nearly a year, I’m convinced I’ll be able to write regularly for the foreseeable future. Not as much as I’d want, and I suspect I’ll get frustrated by all the weekly days off I can’t manage to turn into full days of writing, but having a second manuscript finished no longer seems impossible.

 

 

A Dad and a Writer: Month Nine

This month has obviously been easier for me, what with the whole “paternity leave” thingy. Then again, I was exhausted, so maybe it’s a wash.

On the baby front, it’s been a fun few weeks. Lots of small steps forward (that translate to a few more seconds of free time every day.) We’ve made the switch from formula to cow milk, my son can now sit up without support which makes bathtime less time-consuming, and so on.

I’ve been able to put in more time on the “becoming a writer” front as a result. Not as much as I’d like, because I wanted to give this blog more attention and because I’ve taken on some paying writing work, which means that Book the Second is still progressing at a snail’s pace.

But the real lesson of this month is the importance of setting up a writing schedule and sticking to it. It’s a good approach to writing in general, but it’s never so apparent that it’s really a necessity as when external pressures play havoc with your time.

Since I’m on vacation, I’ve allowed myself some time off. But my girlfriend also (rightfully) wants me to spend time with her. I’m also spending more time with my son… which means that my schedule has changed. And so, I end up wasting my free time on the Internet because it’s not my usual writing hour.

Still, progress is happening (and for what it’s worth, catching up on my sleep and taking some actual brain-resting time off does help with my productivity.) And each day brings me closer to the glorious first day of daycare!

The Gameplan

Well, I’m on paternity leave. But I should have known that wouldn’t mean much more free time.

Objectively, I have about forty more hours per week. But I obviously wanted to spend some of that time with my son. We also had a fairly impressive backlog of household tasks that I had to get through. Plus, I’m apparently exhausted (surprising, I know) – I didn’t realize it in the high-speed grind of the work-fatherhood-writing lifestyle, but now that I have time to take it a bit easier, I’m barely making it through my days.

But if I want to accomplish anything in my remaining three weeks and change of “vacation”, I need to plan my workload out. So here we go:

1-Blogging:

My goal here is simple: two posts a week for the five weeks of my vacation. That should suffice to catch-up the few weeks I’ve missed this year, and to build a small buffer for emergencies.

There’ll be one Bonus Creativity post, one A Dad and a Writer, the Yeruldegger Just my Opinion, and at least one update on my queries. Beyond that… we’ll see.

2-Writing:

I sorely wanted to challenge myself to 300 words per day for the duration, but I’m just too exhausted. Instead, the goal is now “reach 8000 words in Book the Second.” I’m at slightly over 2000 now, so I feel that’s an achievable goal.

I also need to take an evening to work on the setting bible for Book the Second. I need to draw a quick world map, formalize how magic works in that universe, that sort of stuff.

As a tertiary goal, I really should write out a first version of the synopsis. It’s the kind of writing I could easily improve upon during my breaks at work. Plus, it’s a good way to spot any plot issues prior to writing out several thousand words.

3-Querying:

Well, I found one other agent which may be interested in Book the First, so I’ll query her in the next couple of days. Then I’ll spend a few hours reviewing the status of my last batch of queries. Except a query report at some point.

4-E-publishing:

As mentionned, I want to start looking at e-publishing Book the First. I need to do some research on that, so that’s likely to be the subject of a blog post at some point. Depending on the amount of work required to turn my manuscript into an e-book, I might want to get started on that during my vacation too.

5-Extra content:

I’ve got some ideas for additionnal material for this blog. We’ll see how that goes.

So that’s what I’m trying for in the next month or so. We’ll see how it goes.