I still remember that numb mixture of joy and uncertainty that enveloped me as I stared at the life changing double line on the pregnancy test kit.
I was going to become a mother!
The long wait for this to happen and the celebration of the news is for another blog post. Along with the exhilaration that followed, there was a voice with in which said I just had 9 months to get as much writing done as I could. Come motherhood, the early phases demand that everything else be kept on back burners (rather pushed off the stove for a while!). Not writing makes me miserable. But I could also not bear the thought of being that selfish mother who neglects her infant for her ‘passion’. At the same time, I was not sure how much justice I could do to this bundle of joy, when the thought of being unable to write gnawed at me from within.
Come the big day and the months that followed, I surprised myself.
- I edited and published Mauri, a manuscript I had worked upon during my pregnancy. Effectively added more than 15,000 words in the process. (Editor, Vrinda deserves a shout out for the quick turn around)
- I wrote the first draft of Draupadi and submitted it to the publisher. A 79,000 word long output after a quick round of self editing
- I edited and published another manuscript under a pen name, effectively launching the pen name too. Had worked on this last year. Editing phase added another 4000 words.
- I started upon a new project, implementing an alternate history idea on Ramayana. The manuscript is young and has crossed 2,500 words last Thursday.
Without counting the couple of blog posts, That puts my output past 100,000 words after the big day! In less than seven months. Now that I have gloated enough, let me come to the how part of it.
How did I do it?
100,000 words in 180 days (Removing a month considering the neonatal fortnight and the big move from London to India), the average daily output is about 555 words. Suddenly it does not look like an impossible thing. Of course, creativity muse is not always subservient to a daily routine. Realistically, there were many zero output days and some high spike days, the highest daily output being about 4500 words. That said, a daily writing routine is the biggest factor that keeps you on track, though you don’t need to beat yourself up for some missed days. Other crucial factors were
- A supportive family – My mother who is even more passionate to see me write my way to success was the crucial pillar of support. The growing baby posed no mean challenge, but with her multi tasking skills assuming their best form, she gave me the much needed breaks to write and also participated in the critiquing process for most of the drafts. My father’s support was no less. I could not have done it without them.
- Following an outlining process – Plotting and outlining gives me a level of confidence. A feeling that the battle is half won. I spend a good couple of days thinking about the whole plot. It also helps me pin point the blind spots and invest more of story-dreaming time on those areas. Plotting also helps in setting the agenda for each writing session. You can read more about my outlining process here
- Understanding that momentum is everything – Given that the large chunk of my writing was about the first draft, it was important to take advantage of the momentum and get the draft done ASAP than about honing each scene or chapter. The self critic within me needed to be sent for a long vacation. I could not work with her if I had to complete the draft within the submission date. The last 25-30K words of the draft were done in a span of ten days and momentum was everything before I could afford the luxury of listening to the critic within me. Save the inner critic for the self edit phases.
- Pomodoro Sessions – For the uninitiated, this is a productivity session where a professional engages in a single task without breaks or task switches for 25 minutes followed by a mandatory break of 5 minutes. Two Pomodoro sessions a day worked a great deal in keeping the momentum.
- Support groups – I am a part of two groups, one a closed Whatsapp group of ten women writers. We would share our daily word count, cheer each other, share any writing related problems, back each other up with any quick fixes and much more. We had grouped together around last year and have travelled through many manuscripts together cumulatively. Pomodoro idea was suggested to me by Preethi Venugopala from this group. The second group is a Facebook group called Writer Mom life. The members are all mothers who are writers. I met many who were facing more challenging phases of their lives and my own challenge seemed negligible. Emotional support groups go a long way in keeping you on track. They consist of members who exactly know what each other passes through and offer empathy. Something that a friend or a family member cannot provide even if they wanted to.
- Reading relevant books – I utilised my feeding time in reading books on Focus, productivity, business and craft of writing. It is easy to dismiss these as old wine in new bottles. But while chasing deadlines and goals, packaging the known ‘wine’ comes in handy, be it in retaining motivation or in putting things in perspective.
That sums it up, my journey in writing through this exciting phase. How do you manage to keep up your productivity through tough phases? Would be delighted to read your stories in comments.