Things I Learned During an 18 Hour Writing Marathon..Three Days in a Row

Yesterday was both amazing and horrible. I wrote consistently from 6am to midnight, stopping only to use the restroom and eat. At one point I ate while writing, so I’m not sure if that meal counted. This was coming off three or four days of about 5 hours of sleep per night, and nearly nonstop writing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am so blessed to have that much work. When the monthly paycheck comes in, I know I’m going to be pretty elated, and probably won’t be thinking about the near physical breakdown that occurred whilst writing for hours on end. I won’t be thinking about how ridiculous I was to claim so many articles out of the article pool. I probably won’t even be thinking about how it was that my legs didn’t atrophy by sitting for so long. But yesterday, I did. 

But alas, I have crawled out of the cave, and returned, blinking, to the real world where people actually…take breaks. 

Image

I linked to that image because I think it’s really pretty. But also, that’s kind of how I feel today. Perhaps it’s all a bit melodramatic. But I learned a lot about writing, the business of writing, and what to (and not to) do. So I thought I would share. 

#1 Don’t Try to Take the Easy Way – It’s More Work

I was trying to finish 38 articles in one day yesterday, 700 words each, 3 reference links. I didn’t get them all done, but then we were granted an extension by surprise. (Thank You, Lord!) So of the 13 I didn’t get finished, 10 of them got extensions. Missing the deadline on 3 out of (tallies up the last week) 150 articles…I think I’m okay. But as I was frantically trying to get them done, I thought it would be helpful to try to find a way to do things quicker. So I thought, hey, I don’t have Dragon yet, but Google’s speech-to-text feature on my phone should help me write quicker in Google Docs. 

Now, if you don’t have a crazy deadline, and your hands are hurting from typing so much, this is actually not that bad of an idea. It was pretty cool. The only problem is when you say “fluffy jumper” and it writes down “f***** jumper”, you know that Google doesn’t always understand what you say. Also, Google doesn’t understand that if you say “period” and then begin another sentence, that sentence needs to start with a capital. So you have go back and do a lot of editing. 

The editing is far less physically taxing than banging out a million articles, sure. But time wise, it’s kind of like doing the article twice. At least I felt that way. I’ll have to do an actual time test. But the point is, I probably could have written the articles in the time it took me to go back and edit everything. 

#2 Don’t Waste Time Planning and Analyzing 

Another thing I learned was that, while planning in and of itself is important and necessary, planning every single detail and analyzing what your rate of articles per hour is, how that fits into your goal, and whether you’ll get there is only taking time away from your writing. If you’re on a deadline, just write. Period. 

#3 Don’t Bother With Formalities

If you’re pushed against the wall on a deadline, you really don’t want to bother with formalities. I’m about to completely contradict what I said in my last post, but this is ONLY if you’ve been a professional crastinator and you’re back’s against the wall. Don’t outline, don’t set aside your resources, don’t make cute little note cards with your research, don’t do all your outlines first, then your rough draft….forget it. Do everything at once. Jot down subheadings in bold, fill it in with text, add your links, and submit it. Done and done. You won’t have to think about that order for the rest of the night, you know it’s submitted and out of your hands, and you won’t have to block out time at the end of the night to submit a million articles. What you have done is what you have done, no guessing.

#4 Listen to Meditation Music

No, you won’t fall asleep. I, too, was surprised. After listening to The Glitch Mob station on Pandora (which I LOVE) for several hours, I was getting a bit antsy and confused and frustrated. So I thought, why not listen to the Nature Sounds station (which I also adore) and see if it helps me get some focus. I was so calm, focused, and relaxed I was shocked. I think sometimes caffeine and amped up music can do more to make you frantic than it does to help you stay awake. I managed my entire 18-hour marathon yesterday on 2 cups of coffee. Anyone who knows me knows that’s almost a miracle. I usually drink 6 to 10 cups of coffee a day just because I can, that’s not counting the caffeine I often consume during all-nighters. But cold water and calm music proved to be much more beneficial. 

#5 Know What You Can Do

The one thing I learned above all else yesterday was that sometimes the promise of money and work blinds us to reality. Had I taken just one of this batch of orders and timed myself, I would have found out very quickly that I could not do that many in a day. I would have known not to accept 100 articles over a 4-day period. (I did manage that number, but it almost made me sick, and one more day of it probably would have caused me a trip to the ER with literal exhaustion.) I would have known that just because I can technically finish a certain amount in 18 hours, that’s only if I didn’t eat, drink, pee, or blink.

My point is, don’t take more than you can handle. When you’re looking at $1,900 in a week (seriously), it has a tendency to blind you. Suddenly it becomes “You know what, I’ll make it work,” but you’ll so find out that your body and brain are going to veto that motion straight away. After that, if you continue to press the issue, your brain will straight up fillibuster. You’ll end up having dreams about your friends as part of a weird circus, where one of them is dressed as a mouse and runs the Rat Pin, one of them is the Circus Master and is running an evil scheme to draw in people to the circus, and you’re the main character trying to save the husband you don’t have in real life from their plot to make him The Magician. (I’m not even exaggerating, that’s what I woke up from this morning).

Of course COPYRIGHT! you also get an idea for an awesome NaNoWriMo novel…..*shrug*

But seriously, you’ll go crazy. Your brain will make you see stuff out of the corner of your eye like “Oh you’re not going to look away from your computer for 18 hours, hmm, gotcha!”

Just don’t do it. I’m sure it’s going to take me a week of 10 hour a night sleep to even catch up to the level of near-normalcy I was at before. So while it’s amusing and leads to super cool novels, it’s really not advisable.

#6 Your Social Life Matters

It does something to you when you reside in your room with junk food and coffee for three days straight. But it also, as it turns out, does something to your friends and, in some instances, your family. It makes them kind of disappear. Not so much because they did, but because you did. 

ImageYour social life, as it turns out, is really important. If you’re a religious or spiritual person, that’s also important, and removing yourself from the things you love, that keep you going, that keep you engaged, that make you who you are, can really do a number on you. I felt so weird not going to Wednesday night and Sunday night services. I didn’t respond to friends on Facebook messaging when I used to all the time. I felt very, oddly, strangely alone. It felt a little bit like a Stephen King novel. If you’re planning a week of awesome projects, schedule time with your family and friends. I live with my family and barely saw them, and when I did I was kind of a grinch, so it wasn’t fun for anyone. 🙂 Your brain really DOES need sleep and social interaction, sunlight and a dose of reality. 

Otherwise you end up like this guy…

ImageSo those are the six main lessons I learned during this last week about writing, the business of writing, what to do, and what not to do. I have work for the next few days, but only 10 or so articles a day, which is just right for me. I’m also planning to *gasp* read a book for pleasure, write something for myself (NaNoWriMo I’m late, but I’m here), and you know…go for a walk. Business is important. Making money is essential. And writing is doggone fun. But it can take over your life if you let it, and no amount of money is worth it if you have no one to spend it on or with. 🙂

So, writers, remember why you started doing this in the first place. If you left a corporate job because you wanted time with your family, then spend time with them. Doing something you love, I’ve found, also has the pitfall of drawing you into endless hours of work without realizing it, because it’s so much fun. But keep your priorities straight, and spend time with those who love you, and those you love.

Until next time, happy writing! 🙂  

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