I have signed a contract, an inky blood oath, with my writer pal Larry Zick. We agree to spend an hour each day working solely on our writing projects, and when we finish we report back to the other party by text or Facebook message the word “DONE!” and any extra details we think our partner might find salient. It sounds goofy, but in fact each person knowing that the other is counting on him … well, it has been highly successful and we’ve both gotten a lot of work done.
It was originally Aimee Bender’s idea. The actual contract itself is at http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Contract-Writers-Guidelines-Writers-Contract_1 and the very interesting story behind it (as shared with Oprah!) is at http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Writing-Every-Day-Writers-Rules-Aimee-Bender.
Its genius is in its flexibility: Did you tap away at a keyboard or scratch a pen against paper for 60 minutes? Great, that counts! Did you outline, do a character Q&A, research a setting for an hour? Wonderful, that counts! Did you spend an hour lying on the couch but thinking hard about your book or other writing project? Spiffy, that counts too! As long as the time was spent in some way supporting your writing, then it counts.
So far I have had a day or two correcting galleys on my new novel. A couple of days have been spent working on marketing. And some days I even have written some new words! Each day, Larry (who lives three hours in the future on the east coast while I am in Glitter Gulch in the Pacific time zone) greets my sleepy face with a “DONE!” since he does his before his JOB job of being an insurance guru. Since I teach and work from home, mine is sent whenever I finish my hour, which is sometimes quite late because I’ve broken it into four 15-minute segments or some such to take maximum benefit from down time.
So far we’ve each missed one day, which we duly confessed to our counterpart and then made up the next day. It’s a lot of fun seeing so much get done when we always complain we “just can’t seem to get to working on the book” or what have you.
In honor of Ms. Bender’s flexible idea of “working on writing,” I share with you some thoughts from Frederik Pohl in his wonderful memoir, The Way the Future Was:
In the minds of most civilians, the life of a writer has got to be glamorous and exciting. Well, it is, some of the time. A writer often gets to meet special people, visit fascinating places, do exciting things. But none of these occur when he is actively engaged at his employment. When he is writing, he is the nearest thing to a vegetable that you will find registered to vote. He sits.
It’s true. But that sitting counts.