A few weeks ago, I emailed one of my co-workers at A Very Important Meeting and got an auto-response that read:
Hello! After a very challenging and very busy 14 months of #ZoomLife, I’m finally focusing on my writing! Thank you for understanding and for supporting my creative time.
Brilliant. My email was not so important that it couldn’t wait, and I had this feeling of: good for you, prioritizing your writing, followed immediately by: could I do that?
I had used auto-responses before, of course, but only when I was away on a writing retreat or on a rare, work-free vacation. It had never occurred to me to say, “yes, I am actually at my desk, but I don’t want to be distracted. I’m writing.”
And why not? This might be the perfect time, in fact. I am currently working hard to complete a draft of my second novel and I need all the time I can carve out. I have this dream of wrapping it up and getting it off to my agent before June 23.
Why such a specific date? Because that’s the day I drive north to Tahoe for the Western States Endurance Race. I’m not running it (I wish I could even being to consider a race like that), but I have applied for a press pass so that I can do research for book number three. I had hoped to go last year, but, you know, Covid. Even if I’m not given a press pass (they may have to limit how many they give because, you know, Covid) I intend to hang out at the starting line and finish line and anywhere in between that they’ll allow me to be.
Anyway, I really want to be able to focus on then new story while I’m there and I’m hoping that I’ll leave the race super fired up to write that book and I’m not really good at having two active projects at the same time. So I have to wrap up the draft of book two in the coming weeks.
To that end, I’ve scoured my calendar for anything that can be put off. I’m going to schedule an auto-response email for June. I’m dropping as much freelance work as I can for the month. I won’t be sending out a newsletter. I will (mostly) stay off of social media. I’m writing this blog post on May 22, so that I can schedule it to go live in June and there won’t be a second post in June (I promise, when I post again in July, I’ll get you all up to speed.) I am clearing the decks to hit my goal of completing my rewrite before June 23.
Frankly, there’s also a secondary motivation for my hurry. I’ve been working on this project for a long time and it’s starting to weigh on me. I’ve only been actually writing it for about three years, but I’ve been outlining and researching it for almost 14. It spent several years in the background while I worked on my debut novel, 142 Ostriches, and for all that time I have loved the story, worked on it with passion. Only recently have I begun feel the first hints of burn out. I need to wrap it up while I still love it, because lord knows that, even once it’s “done” my agent will have notes, my editor will have notes. It won’t be “done done” (it’s an industry term) for a long time.
So wish me luck and know that, if you email me, I’ll get back to you in July.