I have built my entire writing career, with my 50th book (Annika Riz, Math Whiz) due out this coming spring, on one principle, and one principle only: that if you write for just an hour a day, writing one pitiful, pathetic, puny page during that hour, you can complete an enormous amount of pages by the end of a year: 365, to be precise, 366 during leap year. Each day's accomplishment seems so tiny, but the cumulative total is so large. I have been cheered by the thought that the great Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope followed a similar method, writing for a fixed time period each morning before heading off to his full-time job as a high-ranking official for the British Post Office.
Trollope wrote in his wonderful autobiography, "Nothing surely is so potent as a law that may not be disobeyed. It has the force of the water drop that hollows the stone. A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules."
But here's the problem. Lately I've been disobeying my own law. It's so easy, when I look at the clock by my bed that reads 5:00 a.m., to say, oh, why not sleep just a little bit longer? And then it's so easy, when I finally wake up, to check email and see what witty things friends have posted on Facebook. And then it does feel extremely urgent to turn to the many, many tasks awaiting me from my job, for unlike Mr. Trollope, professors take their work home with them, and some Loathsome Task is always hanging over my head. Wouldn't it feel so good to be able to cross off from my ever-lengthening to-do list those graduate student recommendation letters I need to write? Or the manuscript review I promised a journal? Or those books reviews for Children's Literature? Or to make a dent in that pile of student papers? So I do a couple of those things, and it does feel good, it really does, but at the end of the day, I haven't done my hour, and I haven't written my page.
I now have a real and looming deadline for my writing. I was lucky enough to get a three-book contract from Knopf/Random House for a companion series to my Mason Dixon series, this time starring Mason's friend Nora, a serious, scientific girl who devotes herself to advancing the frontiers of science by doing experiments on her ant farm. Each book is to be 25,000 words, or about 125 pages. The first is due December 15; all three are to be completed by June of next year.
Now this is doable. It's not easy, but it's doable. After all, friends who participate in National Novel Writing Month every November commit to writing a full 50,000 words during those thirty days, double the length of each of my Nora books in a single month, and many of them meet this goal. If they can, I can.
But I can do it only if I give an hour to my writing every single day. Every SINGLE day. And that means, yes, that means today. TODAY!!!
Grading can wait. Class prep can wait. Revisions on a philosophy paper can wait.
Off to write!