January and a new year. A time for reflecting, for planning, and in my case, a time to think about writing. Last year’s overarching goals were: (1) Novels that are recognized as excellent quality and read by many people, and (2) Become known for analysis and insights on historical fiction.
Musing #1 is taken from Lorin Stein’s recent article in The New York Times Book Review titled Words Unwired. Stein, editor-in-chief of The Paris Review, wrote: “Over these last few years all of us, readers and writers alike, have developed a growing appreciation for what the Internet wants to take away: our time alone with the written word.” To that I would add, our time alone to think and to be, plus our time with others to work, play and converse.
While some of my online time centres on productive, writing oriented activities like research, blogging, and those lovely surveys I do, I probably spend one or two hours a day checking emails, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Even one hour a day represents 365 hours or 15 whole days.
Musing #2 – are my two overarching goals compatible? A Writer of History with its emphasis on analyzing survey data, conducting interviews, and developing insights is a time intensive activity. I do at least two posts a week, most requiring two to four hours of effort and I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I’ve spent surveying readers and presenting the information in digestible chunks. The good news: blog readership continues to increase and the historical fiction community is definitely appreciative. Maybe I’ll eventually reach the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell refers to in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. “In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”
But hang on a moment, aren’t I supposed to be writing novels? They’re the spark that defines me, excites me, keeps me awake at night. Shouldn’t I spend those hours – more than two years of effort assuming a twelve hour day – on my next novel?
Musing #3 – no one cares more about my writing than I do. While family and friends encourage and celebrate, only I can decide to devote the necessary time, creativity and angst to write each novel.
Musing #4 – writing is hard. At the moment I’m conducting research into late 19th century France for a new novel. The research part is easy in one sense. It takes time, of course, but the essence of the task is reading enough materials to gathering the necessary facts. Defining a story requires imagination and elusive elements of serendipity. You can’t command such elements at will or find them in a repository. And I’m daunted by the fact that this next story has not yet emerged and depressed by the possibility that it might never take shape.
Musing #5 – planning and priorities are critical. Without a plan, I don’t know where I’m going. Without priorities, I have little sense of the tradeoffs I’m making.
Musing #6 – each year marks a new beginning. I can decide to shed some of the behaviours and habits that intruded on 2015 and make a fresh start. I know how to do that and I know it always makes me feel energized, ready to tackle the world.
All I need to do first is check Facebook 🙂
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.