I have learned the hard way writing anything requires some amount of planning. I’m not even talking about plotting versus pantsing, I’m talking about making sure I have organized my life to so I have enough time to do the writing.

I am not a fast writer, and sometimes I need blocks of time to re-read, think, and stare at what I’ve written in order to continue, even if I have a detailed plot. I also need to be able to push the other parts of life aside for a few hours. I have learned to make use of as few as five minutes of free time to jot notes or write down a little dialogue but that means I have to have a big chunk of the story in my head. On a busy weekend or family trip I can do that because my mind is not full of day job junk. When the day job intrudes into those times I lose that ability.

When I travel for work I tend to make big plans to read or write on the plane. The nature of my day job does not allow me to work in public. Unfortunately, I rarely get my mind off the day job to be able to focus on the writing, or even enjoy reading. It’s a state I need to overcome.

This week I was given a day job assignment as part of a team that is scheduled to be away from home for twenty-one days straight. It’s an intensive project that will, at some point, take up to eighteen hours a day. The only things I’ll have energy for are eating and sleeping.

I should not complain, it is an exciting project and important for my company, but I’ve done it all before. Of course, that is the reason I’m on the team. Ultimately I do need to find a way to change that part of my profession but it isn’t easy. For this assignment I’ll have to explain, as a single father, I cannot be away from my children that long; arrangements can be made but that’s asking more than I can manage. Those types of concerns, plus the work of the assignment itself, defeat my creative energy.

The worst part of this assignment, as far as my writing is concerned, is that it falls in November. For the last two years I have participated in NaNoWriMo and it has been an excellent process for me to get a new book started each year. Forget word count and the fact that if I don’t get 50k words done in the month I might still have something, experience tells me there is no way I will be able to focus on writing enough to produce something I’d care to look at later. For me it isn’t about the number of words but the quality of them. If they aren’t coherent when I re-read them later i have to re-write them as if from scratch. There’s little to gain from that kind of inefficiency.

This weekend, rather than doing the traditional NaNo prep, I am planning just what I can do during the next three months. What I can do, is finish up some short stories lying in various states of the editing process. I can probably at least sketch some new stories. I can do research for the next novel. I can edit one of my unfinished novels. I hope I can read. If I can break the twenty one days into a couple of trips I might even get a decent draft out of last years NaNo project.

This autumn will not be what I expected but I will salvage some productivity even if there is less creativity in it.