It’s one thing to decide to write a lot in a short space of time. You can set aside the days. You can get as well prepared as it’s possible to be. But it’s another thing to actually do the writing, to stick at it day after day after day.
There’s no doubt in our – Barbara and my – minds that writing together makes it easier to keep going. When one of us flags, the other is able to offer some encouragement. And writing together makes for more interesting conversations and ideas. And that’s motivating. But we do find that we still need lots of incentives to write for long periods of time.
First of all, we like to make sure we are well-fed. We do become rather focused on food, maybe even fixated, when we write. We plan one day what we will eat the next and we always have a decent break just after midday to eat what we’d organised the day before.
When we were in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur we went out to sample a different street stall each day. Soup one day, noodles the next. In Nottingham and Melbourne we eat in. But we take half and hour or so every day to visit the market and buy whatever fruit and veges take our fancy. While we’re out we often have a coffee, look at people and talk about anything other than the work. We let our collective subconscious keep working while we chatter about something else. The change of scene is important; getting out means we feel less trapped.
Sometimes we do a bit of additional shopping later in the day. After we’ve racked up a decent enough slab of writing we reward ourselves. We visit the local bookshop, go to a nearby gallery or take a quick look at jewellry or clothing. Or we might go for a walk or sit outside with a glass of wine.
Writing is sedentary so keeping up with some kind of activity is important too. As we both have bad backs we are on serious stretching regimes in the morning and night.
Our final reward is to build in social occasions. We try to fit in dinners, the occasional film, seeing other friends – these take us away from the office and the computer and force us to talk about something other than our book.
We’ve worked out what works for us in these intensive writing periods and we don’t feel guilty taking time out for rewards, rest and relaxation. Without these breaks and pleasures to look forward to, I doubt that we would manage to write as much as we do.
Progress report: Today we wrote 6500 words, a short chapter on arguing. Still on track.