Are you a binge writer?
I am. This is something that I have only recently discovered after chatting with author Sue Whiting, a reformed binge writer. Sue now writes a small amount every day, and she tells me this is a much healthier way of writing, especially for busy people. Is she right? Let’s take a look, shall we?
What is binge writing, or BW as we will now call it? BW is where a writer works on a project obsessively over a continuous period of time. During this period, the writer only thinks about his or her work.
The more time spent BW, the more dangerous it can be, and the more annoying it is for others. But is it all bad?
The benefits of BW
- It’s fun! I love being caught up in my imaginary worlds. Slaying a dragon is always going to be more fun than feeding a dog.
- You get a lot done in a relatively short period. When I write a little bit here and a little bit there, I always forget where I am up to, or how my characters speak etc – so I have to reread what I’ve written and then I get caught up editing things instead of writing new stuff and getting a first draft completed. BW means you can go full stream ahead and don’t have to keep going back and reading where you’re up to.
The downside to BW
- It is not sustainable. If you BW for too long, your head may explode, or worse, you will lose your grip on reality completely, for example, you may accidentally slay your dog instead of feeding it.
- You look and act like a crazy person – often in a state of BW, you don’t get out of your pyjamas, you forget to brush your teeth, you eat badly, you talk about people who don’t exist … it’s not a good look.
Looking at these lists, I think it’s clear that the healthiest and most productive type of writing is to do what Sue does, and write a little bit every day – and force yourself to do this. That way, you get things done, you don’t forget where you’re up to, and you don’t look like a crazy person. Plus your dog doesn’t end up being slayed.
However, for those, like me, who simply can’t give up their BW style of writing just yet, here are some tips for healthier BW:
- Set a finite period for BW and tell all your loved ones. Life is full of distractions: cooking, dishes, cleaning, laundry, lunchtime karaoke … by setting a period of BW and telling all your loved ones not to distract you during that time, you can more easily escape. Setting a period also gives you a deadline and we all know how great deadlines can be to keep a writer motivated.
- Reward yourself. Set daily goals and reward yourself with a treat, such as a candy bar, an episode of television, or a dance break.
- Where possible go somewhere different to write. I find if I try to binge write in my normal setting, I get much too distracted by all the things I have to do, and just generally by the book I could read, the movie I could watch, or the things I could eat. By choosing a foreign location, you can avoid procrastination by not bringing any distractions with you, except as rewards to ration. If you can escape to this writing place on your own, that’s even better.
Fellowships are a great example of this healthier style of BW.
When I wrote the first draft of Bad Grammar, I was living in Adelaide with no friends nearby and no television, so I was writing all day and into the night, for a period of 14 days straight. I was living in the world I had created, spending time with the characters I was writing (they turned out to be excellent company). After two weeks I had something to show people. I repeated this a few months later, spending another 2 weeks fixing things and then I had a manuscript to submit to publishers. No one saw me in my crazy state. It was perfect.
Based on that success, and with my wife abandoning me this week so she can go to New York, I am locking myself away in a coast house and engaging in some more BW to get my new manuscript, Gasbag, up to the next draft level. Time to pack my pjs and buy some microwave dinners. Time to spend some quality time with the people in my head …
Wish me luck.
And then, once this one is done I promise I’ll set myself better writing practices. I will. Well, I’ll try …