My late friend Uro once wrote a novel in one month. He did it by locking himself in his room and having his meals brought to him so he wouldn’t have to go out. I tried the lockdown method last month, and it is effective. The cats have no food preparation skills, and even if they did they would not deign to bring me my meals, so I stocked up on yogurt, digestive biscuits and liver spread and occasionally ordered out from Pancake House (which delivers salads, but has terrible packaging—sometimes the sauce has leaked out of the box. Also it’s expensive, Php440 minimum order). I got a lot of pages written and they have survived (I write longhand, and then type them up, editing in the process). Twice a week I allowed myself out of the house for appointments, chores, and to see my friends.
Then I realized that I can’t just sit at my desk and start producing pages. I have to work my way into writing, which typically involves hours of doing something else (reading, watching movies or TV, aimless walking or since I am indoors, pacing) while thinking of writing. Whenever I keep to a schedule—say, write from 1 to 6 pm—the pages read like they were written by someone on a schedule. Which means I have to rewrite them, so that’s double the work. (Usually after I’ve written something I never want to see it again or I will get stuck rewriting it for days.) I work on the Federer method: the best results for the least amount of effort. It would be laziness if it did not involve decades of training. Once I figure out how the page sounds (hear the words in my head), I can write fast. So the actual writing actually takes less time than working up to it.
And then, having worked myself up to writing the novel, I had to stop every other day to meet deadlines for columns and other jobs. This destroys my momentum. Plus my mind is on my novel, so the paid work is not as solid as it should be. And when I get back to the novel, I have to work myself up to it all over again. Aaargh, so much time lost.
So I’ve taken a month off from work to allow myself to focus. (Blogging is not work because it’s one of the things I do to work myself up to writing a novel.) Also I’ve taken to using the pocket Moleskines (in photo) rather than the large notebooks because they fill up faster, giving me the illusion that I’ve been good.
P.S. The cats wish to clarify their role in the household. Their job is mystical guardianship. They keep out unwanted spirits.