Saturday, March 15, 2014

All the Free Time in the World Doesn’t Make it Easier to Finish Writing a Book – Guest Blogger Gigi Pandian

GIGI PANDIAN is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series. She is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India, and grew up being dragged around the world on their research trips. Her debut mystery novel, Artifact, was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant and named a “Best of 2012” Debut Novel by Suspense Magazine. The follow-up is Pirate Vishnu, which came out last month. Gigi’s locked-room mystery short story “The Hindi Houdini” is currently an Agatha Award nominee for Best Short Story. Learn more about Gigi and her mysteries at

A few months ago, I took a three-month sabbatical from my day job to finish writing a novel due at the end of January. I was convinced that the extra free time would give me an abundance of time to turn the book into what I knew it could be. Instead, I learned an important lesson: eight hours of time does not equal eight hours of creative productivity!

I have a full-time job, and my normal schedule gives me two weekday mornings a week to write. The fact that I have to be at the office by 12:30 gives me a real deadline. I know I have to be on a train by noon, so I have no excuses – I have to get up and get writing.

But during my sabbatical, when each day was completely flexible, I didn’t have the same fire getting me going each day. It was no longer a special treat that I got to write for a few hours. Writing itself was my full-time job for those three months.

Since I’ve always had a day job while writing, it had never before occurred to me that creative energy is limited. I discovered I can write as much in three hours as I can in eight — even when I’m at a computer the whole day. I’m glad I learned that lesson about myself before taking the plunge to be a full-time writer.

While working on my novel from home during the sabbatical, I would find there was laundry to do, errands to run, or a few emails to answer—and suddenly the day was gone. However, I did find a few tricks I used successfully:
  • Getting out of the house to write at a coffee house where university students and freelancers congregate. It’s much harder to get up and do the dishes “for just a few minutes” when you’re several blocks from home.
  • Turning off the internet for two-hour chunks of time. Easier said than done, but well worth the willpower.
  • Setting quantifiable daily goals to accomplish before doing something fun like meeting a friend for lunch.

I’m now back to my normal routine and having a blast working on my next book, including plotting it on the commuter train I take to work.

And yes—I turned in my sabbatical book two days shy of my deadline!


Hannah Dennison said...

Welcome to Type M Gigi. I loved your post! I especially love the point you make about creative energy being limited. Although I complain about the stress of having a full-time job, I definitely am far more "prolific" (I say this word loosely) knowing my writing time is limited too. Hope to see you at Malice!

Camille Minichino said...

Well said, Gigi. I'm even "worse" with free time -- I need things to do and people around me, as in a day job, to inspire and motivate me even when they don't know it!

Gigi Pandian said...

Frankie -- Thanks for inviting me!

Hannah -- Yes, I look forward to seeing you at Malice!

Camille -- I knew there was a reason we were friends ;)

Anonymous said...

The day job means I can't write late at night (my preference), but the structure is helpful. I can write always, but fiction seems to take bigger chunks of time than non-fiction. Have you found it more beneficial to have a schedule or to spend time away from home?