Finding a Writing Rhythm

 – by Tony Jones


Mark Twain said, “Write what you know.”


I work best under deadline. A book I’m editing that is a tribute (aka, festschrift; aka liber amicorum) was due last Thursday. After putzing away at it here and there in the preceding months, I buckled down and worked on it night and day for the ten days prior to the deadline. And it got done — done well, I think.

There’s a certain kind of rush that comes when a deadline approaches. My creative adrenaline spikes. I become singularly focused on that project.

However, when the deadline is months away, there is no such adrenaline, no such focus. That’s especially true when the book manuscript is due over a year before the book will release, because I know that there’s lots and lots of time to edit the book, to fix mistakes, and to tighten up the prose.

So here are some things I do:


Schedule Writing:  Mondays and Fridays and some weekend days (when we don’t have the kids), I write. It’s on my Google Calendar now, every Monday and Friday between here and Christmas: “7am – 2pm Write.”


Multi-Task: I don’t need to focus solely on writing when I’m this far out in from of a deadline. I’ve got to write 1000-2000 words per day. That’s not an overwhelming amount for me (my record is 19,000 words in 24 hours — that’s another story for another day). So, today as I’ve been writing, I’ve also been canning and baking. So far, I’ve canned four jars of dill pickles, and made bread dough, which is now proofing. The great thing about baking bread, for instance, is that it’s got to proof for at least 5 hours, which gives me plenty of time to write between tasks.

Set Artificial Deadlines: In order to hit word count thresholds, I set alternate deadlines for myself, in advance of the Big Hairy Deadline of January 1. For example, I bought a plane ticket to go see my editor early next month. I know that I’ll be terribly embarrassed if I don’t have ample progress to show him, so that meeting will spur me on to have the book at least 1/3 complete by September 9.