Over a week into the new year, and I’ve barely written a couple of hundred words. It’s an output typical of late. December was not a successful month. Don’t get me wrong. My other job brought me the possibility of some fantastic news for the New Year, and the holidays with my family was wonderful. But for three weeks or more I’ve eaten what I wanted, skipped the gym, let the kids stay up late, read more than usual and watched more films. All of which has meant I’ve done very little writing. Obviously, I’ve done some: it means too much to me to stop it completely. But it’s been limited to drafting ideas in my notebook and tinkering with a short story or two. Glueing my backside to the seat in front of the laptop for four hours a night is, like getting to the gym, a habit I’ve fallen out of. The question is, how easy a habit will it be to get back into? Not only is a routine difficult to get back into once broken, but I now have a bunch of new ideas to sift through, a collection of short story competitions to prioritise, and an increase in workload and responsibilities in my other job. A side effect of these extra commitments had been that my self-imposed deadline for completing Swarm has been knocked back from Easter to the summer.
But if it sounds like the Xmas break has been a bad thing for my writing, it hasn’t. The bit of distance from Swarm has given me time to reflect and think through some plot issues, and the break from discipline has allowed me to relax a little. I now have several more ideas for upcoming projects, ideas that would likely have been lost in the rush of a heavy workload.
I’ve long held to the idea that what differentiates a writer from a hobbyist is the priority given to the learning the craft, through both reading around the subject and the hours spent at the laptop. Maybe I’ve been too dogmatic. Maybe time spent away from the keyboard can be just as important.