Confession: I Haven’t Worked on My Novel in 3 Months

I’m absolutely ashamed to admit this, but it’s true.

According to my Daily Schedule Log, I last put in actual writing time on my new novel on June 1st, the day I finished editing the final chapter of Draft Three.  Since I’m drafting this entry on Labor Day to schedule for next week, that means my No-Novel period’s run just over three months, and that’s a long time.

To my credit, it’s definitely been a busy three months since I started my new Office Day Job.  This is partly because I’ve actually been working more hours and was dealing with a nasty commute for the first few weeks, but also because of the general life upheaval that came with the new job throwing off my old writing schedule.  Having to deal with a lot of new surroundings, routines, and habits made it harder for me to get into the rhythm I needed to get my creative work done, which led to less productive evenings and weekends.

In short, I’ve been constantly behind on everything for the past three months and I’m only just starting to get caught up.  I’m actually proud to say that despite all the chaos I was still able to keep up with both this blog and with my goal of reading an average of one book a week throughout 2017, but the trade-off meant setting my new novel on the backburner, as I also had to do with a variety of other things (replying to friends’ emails, replacing my car’s broken radio, etc.) that just seem to keep piling up.

 

But It Hasn’t Been All That Bleak

I don’t mean to make it sound like I haven’t been productive in these last three months, because I have.  In addition to working on this blog, in the past three months I’ve also done the following:

  • Finished a (hopefully final) round of polishes on my Japan novel (finished last year and currently in the querying process)
  • Sent the new draft of my Japan novel out to a boatload of places
  • Found, acquired, moved into, and set up my new apartment, complete with a larger office space and more book storage
  • Wrote and submitted my essay on how working as a painter influenced my work habits as a writer
  • Finished/Made progress on a handful of other projects I can’t mention here because they’re not ready to be shared yet (but trust me, they’re awesome)

That’s kind of a lot of things.  Some of them, like the new apartment move, aren’t really creative-related, but instead fall into that Important Shit You Need To Do to Keep Your Life in Order category.  This brings up some difficult questions about how much time I devote to creative work versus how much time I devote to other aspects of my life I need/want to spend time on, including things as diverse as seeing loved ones and cleaning my toilet.  Could I be a more successful writer if I did away with all cleaning, ate only meals that required less than five minutes to prep, and never touched another board game again?

I don’t have an answer for this question, but my method of dealing with it has been to make regular plans about how I’m going to spend my time, then step back every so often and reassess how well those plans are working, like I’m doing now.

A big part of that To-Do list, though, has involved polishing up and resubmitting my first novel about life in Japan, which I hadn’t looked at in a long time and definitely needed to make some tweaks to.  The cleanups occupied the creative time I’d otherwise be spending on my new novel, so in that sense I was still writing, still being creative, and still working hard, just on another major writing project.

This has led me to another realization: Working on two major creative projects at once is a terrible, terrible idea, but one that’s sometimes unavoidable.  (If it’s not unavoidable for you, though, you should definitely stay far away from it.)

 

So What Now?

Part of the reason I’m writing this is that I’ve made myself a promise: starting today (September 4th, 2017), I’m getting back to work on my new novel, and I’m going to keep up a steady pace until I reach the final stretch.

Finishing the new novel is the next logical step for my getting more of my writing out into the world, since the Japan novel’s already been submitted and left to fate, and I know that this new manuscript has a lot of potential.  My new novel’s also about the writing world and the current state of fiction, which is something I’m hoping editors will be interested in ;-)

As such, from here on out, I’ll be posting regular (probably monthly) updates about my novel progress, mostly for three reasons:

  1. To keep me accountable,
  2. Because people are legitimately interested (“Ian when can I read your new book??” etc.), and
  3. Because I want to chronicle the actual process of working on a major creative project while also working a Day Job (and isn’t that what this blog is all about?)

 

Being Open About Your Creative Work Struggles Is Important

When I was in grad school, I constantly felt intimidated by the other grad students around me who all seemed to be more successful, have more stories they’d published, and have more important-sounding writing awards listed on their CVs than I did on mine.  As such, to avoid embarrassment I found myself constantly trying to act like I had my shit together and project the image of someone who knew what he was doing.

This led to my exaggerating how much writing I’d gotten done over weekends and summer breaks. More importantly, though, when my writing wasn’t going well, I didn’t tell anyone.

I did this for a long time until I realized something that blew my mind: everyone else in grad school was acting the same way.

When people looked at the work I was doing and the image I was projecting of myself, they also got intimidated and wanted to project, so that everyone’s insecurities fed into an atmosphere of pretension.  In that sense I was contributing to a cycle of making people feel guilty about themselves because they weren’t successful or hadn’t written anything during a busy semester of grading papers.  (Poet and ex-grad student James Crews summed this up really well in the interview we did a few months back.)  During my first year of grad school I became everything I’d grown to hate.

On the flip side, being honest about when your creative work isn’t going well shows other people that they’re not the only ones who have problems getting their work done sometimes, which builds a sense of trust.  Instead of playing up to an inflated version of reality where all of us can magically churn out amazing creative work without ever worrying about our credit card bills, we can teach each other how to handle the rough times and build a more positive atmosphere where people feel comfortable contributing.

In short: it’s OK to share the positives, but you should also be honest about the negatives so we can all learn from each other’s struggles and get better.

 

Coming Soon: Novel Updates

I’m honestly excited to get back into my new novel, since this story means a lot to me and takes place in an academic atmosphere similar to the one I just described </sneakpeak>.  Watch for updates soon—maybe once a month or so?  I’m sure that’ll fall into place, though—after all I’m just making this stuff up as I go ;-)

 


Oh, and one last thing—if you liked what you just read and want to show some love, Like this page on Facebook, or share this post with a friend.  Or hell, share it with someone who isn’t a friend, or is perhaps some type of frenemy (don’t look at me like you don’t know someone who meets this description, because you know you do).