Friday, August 22, 2008

Hamster - (Not So) Free to a Good Home

See this contraption? This is a USB hamster wheel. It plugs into a USB port on a computer. The faster the typing, the faster the little runt in the wheel runs. Isn’t it a hoot?

The last time my typing speed was tested, I was well over 100 words a minute. Bet I could make the little sucker run! Talk about being in a gym named 24 Hour Hell with Beelzebub as a trainer.

This little novelty is also not cheap or easy to come by. Everywhere on the web where it was carried, it was out of stock. It was also available only in Europe and retailed for close to $50 (U.S.) A little pricey in my book for a fun doo-dad. In my house, $50 represents three bags of cat food and two large boxes of cat litter. Or a tank of gas and a Happy Meal.

But electronic toys aside, I have quite a symbolic fondness for this little fake furry friend. You see, I just finished my second novel in under twelve months. No one put a gun to my head. I did this willingly. I knew I could do it and I did. Other writers I know also write two books a year, so it wasn't like I was breaking new ground. It wasn't even that difficult, as long as I stuck to my writing schedule and didn't let my lazy side and tendency to waste time rule the roost. And there were times I had to beat them into submission.

Then there were the days in the past year when I felt like the hamster. Like my stumpy little legs were pumping like pistons to keep my fat ass from being mangled by the wheel.

The real downside to writing two books a year is that as soon as you finish one, you have to start on another. Normally, I take four to six weeks off after I finish a novel. This time, I gave myself two weeks. But last night, with less than one week in my writing vacation under my belt, I got the urge to pull up my next manuscript and get to work. I didn't do it, but my fingers itched to make the hamster run. I'm pretty sure by this weekend the little rodent will be flying through the wheel like Usain Bolt.

What can I say? Sometimes you're the keyboard; sometimes you're the hamster.

But notice that the hamster is a happy hamster. That's because she's doing what she loves.


Paul Lamb said...

Two novels in first draft in a year or in ready-to-give-your-editor format? I think I could produce about that much in a year if I carved out more writing opportunities for me (and stuck to them, as you well point out), but they wouldn't be anything more than first draft.

I know what it's like to be "in the zone" when it comes to writing, but do you think your brain or your muse needs down time? I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on this.

Keith Raffel said...

"Stumpy little legs?" Are you talking about the powerful pistons that carry you from success to success?

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Paul, both manuscripts were completed and sent to my publisher. One will be released in February, the other next September.

Sure, my muse and brain need down time. But even when I produced one book a year, I wrote almost everyday. It's like brushing my teeth - something I have to do. By keeping to a tight schedule, I'm able to make sure I'm not writing every spare moment. And I don't, except during the last few weeks before a deadline. Generally, I write only in the mronings, keeping my evenings open.

Also, the two books were very different, except that both were mysteries. One is in 1st person, the other in 3rd. This helped a great deal in keeping me on my toes and not sliding into some sort of writing coma.

And I still work my day job. Which, rather than interfering with my writing, often helps keep me on schedule and gives me that brain break. I find when I have too much time, I slack off. When I'm on a tight deadline, I'm much more productive and concise in my writing.

Hope this helps.

Nina Wright said...

Sue Ann--I'm on the Two Books a Year plan, too, and have been since 2004. As my day jobs have changed--and I've moved across country--I've faced major interruptions, but I'm still committed to the flow.

Love the hamster. Hell, I *am* the hamster!

G.M. Malliet said...

I'm in awe!

Julia Buckley said...

Interesting analogy, Sue Ann! And good luck with all that writing. :)