On the last day of April, Nancy Tupper Ling started pulling together a group of writers to function as an on-line support group for something she was calling The May Days. The group members were to write two pages a day, every day in May, and report back periodically on how often they were able to reach that goal. The May Days isn't a critique group. There's no reading and responding to writing, so there's no extra work. The idea is to merely provide encouragement through accountability. I had only twenty-four hour's notice, no idea what I'd be writing about, but I signed on.
How many of you are thinking, Why would you do that, Gail? You write four days a week. You aren't writing two pages a day, anyway? Show of hands, now. Admit it. That's on your mind.
No, I have not been writing two pages a day. Since I came back to work after the most recent family crisis, I have written one new essay. I have, however, been working. Quite a bit, in fact.
Here's a bizarre fact about writers: If writers have been writing quite a while and have plenty of unsold material on hand as well as a variety of projects going in various stages of completion, they can park their butts in chairs and work a long, long time without generating any new writing. What kinds of things might they be doing? Well, since the end of January, I've been:
1. Making submissions. This involved first finishing a revision of a big project, researching places to submit, creating submission materials, which are often different depending on whom you're submitting to. I've also researched markets for shorter pieces and often did additional revisions of them before submitting. Since the beginning of February I've made twenty-one submissions of one sort or another, which is a lot for me. Since we're talking about time management, I'll mention here that I've been able to do that because of the way I've organized my time. Monday is Submission Day. I may do a little research here and there over the course of the week to make sure I'll have a place to submit to on Monday, but Monday's the day. I hate Mondays.
2. I've been revising a book-length manuscript, moving it from a children's story to one for adults.
3. I've been researching creative nonfiction, thinking I would use that material in another book project I haven't started yet. I've changed my mind about that, but the research certainly won't go to waste. I even used some of it for last week's blog tour post.
4. I've started doing a little research and planning for marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff as an e-book. I could spend days and days reading up on the whole e-publishing thing, and at some point, I may have to.
5. I've been reading and studying plotting. Learning is always a good thing, but in this case, I have some actual plans for that information.
6. I've been blogging during the work day more than I used to. Blogging used to be evening work. It's still my major marketing tool, so it's a legitimate use of time. (Really! It is!)
7. I did some reading on Lucy Calkins in preparation for some brief school visits.
I didn't make any appearances this winter or spring. For writers who did, that was a big drain on time. In addition to the actual contact days, there's prepping for the day, and the time spent e-mailing back and forth with the organizations' contact people. In fact, writers can spend some time responding to queries for appearances and maybe even doing some negotiating about what they'll do during them and have the job never materialize.
My point is, there is a great deal of writing-related work that doesn't have anything to do with creating new material. What I'm doing with this May Days thing is just starting projects--two pages on one thing, four pages on another. If it works, I'm hoping that at the end of the month, I can go over everything I've done and choose a few to focus on for completion and revision. If I'm able to do that, I may want to periodically assign myself Two-page Months during periods when I'm immersed in the kind of work I've been doing recently.
An added positive aspect of The May Days: It requires that you write two pages every day, a valuable time management habit because it helps writers achieve flow.