We used to go very fast. Then we got burnt out

We used to be the faster craftswomen. Till we slowed down.
Now, I'm blogging about sustainable artistic processes at: www.illustratedguidetolife.com

The Honourable Society of Faster Craftswomen

Writing, drawing, audio, animations and theatre by Laura Eades and co

How a child can help you write a novel

Would I do NaNoWriMo again?
Yes. I'd recommend National Novel Writing Month - even those looking after a child. It's a free-flowing writing experience. And you end up with a novel - almost.

What's the advantage of working fast?
  • Your Inner Editor can't keep up. That proved to be true. When I knew I was writing tosh, I told myself I wasn't in any state to judge it.
  • Best of all, your characters start misbehaving and creating plot for you. Working fast, the writing has a mind of its own.

How did my child help me out? (She's 14 months)
  • By being asleep! Ha! I only wrote when she slept, and she kept her routine. (I got up at 6am sometimes too, to get an hour under my belt before she woke up).
  • She prevented late-night working. That would have been killer come the next day. In the past, I've always burnt the candle at both ends. Not any more.
  • By taking me out for fresh air. She forced me out the house in the afternoons!
  • By stopping me straying outside allocated writing times. I wrote in one-and-a-half-hour bursts, which was probably a good thing. With kids, if you have 45 minutes to spare, you don't dick around!
  • By making me want to take the weekend off writing and play instead. (I did also do two day-long stints though when C took our daughter out - one the first weekend, which was good to get ahead wordcountwise, and one towards the end when I had too much plot and too little time).
  • By forcing me not to work in pig stye. Weirdly, perhaps, to the non-childrearing among you, my main worry before I started was about keeping mess and housework under control. If you're a NaNoWriMo signup, you can read this great post by Tupelo Hassman about mess. I don't really enjoy trying to be creative in a tip so this was a real concern. I cooked meals for the freezer, and ran around tidying and hanging up washing while my husband did our daughter's bath at the end of the day. Had a separate space for writing so I wasn't distracted by it. 
How did I make sure it was a successful attempt?
  • This was a real learning curve about setting something up to work out. Chris Baty's book No Plot No Problem was right about absolutely everything. (You can buy it as an ebook too). It followed it to the letter! Hilarious. I'm a nerd, I know. But I wrote a draft of a novel!
  • I did quite a few of his suggested preparations, like setting myself penalties for failure, and getting my family primed and ready to support.
  • Got myself in a few tidy-up habits to try to make house jobs automatic.
  • Reduced my caffeine intake to one large coffee in the morning and a cup of tea after lunch. Sounds trivial but avoiding burn-out and anxiety was crucial to sidestep my usual sabotage.

Is there a downside to working so intensely?

  • Apart from needing to seriously edit all that low-rent prose, you mean? Ha ha. Quantity over quality...

  • I'm always worried that creativity, especially the single-minded obsessional kind (my favourite) can be bad for the health... I'm talking about becoming isolated from the ones you love (hold on minute, aren't people what life is for? Abandoning your social life doesn't make sense); sleep-deprived; cheese-snorting; early-hours wine-drinking; heart-thumpingly caffeinated; self-doubting; nail-bitten; indoors; sedentary. I nearly went down that route. About three times - and that was even after preparing a month beforehand not to drink too much coffee (which, for me, is usually the start of the whole perilous spiral). My husband really helped, suggesting that we put a stop on mid-week drinking too.
It turns out that I still have some work to do on the caffeine front - it'll take as long as it takes. Here are two more things that are helping with that: Self-hypnosis for Dummies and the tips listed here: http://www.wikihow.com/Quit-Caffeine. You can work fast and be alert naturally, I want to believe that.

What do I do now that I've written tons of unreadable prose?
Julia Crouch, lead the way.I'm not going to look at it until after Christmas, but no doubt I'll be a nerd about editing it too!