Sick & Play Time

Quite a while ago, I sent out a Sunday email to the newsletter list, talking about incorporating sick & play time into your production schedule.  Unfortunately, that email has been lost because of a sudden move to a different email service provider, with no chance to recover archived emails.

I’ve referred to sick & play time more than once here on the blog, but I haven’t specifically spoken about what it is, or how to use it here, only in the now-lost email.

However, I have shown you how to do it, at least once.

What is it?

Very simply, it’s extra time you create by writing ahead of your production and release schedules.  You tuck that time into your back pocket for rainy days, and days when something else simply has to come before writing, that you haven’t anticipated.

A good example of “play” time is mine:  Last year, around April, I learned that family were coming from Australia to visit us in Canada for Christmas, and would be here for six weeks.

I spent the rest of 2018 working to get six weeks ahead of my production schedule, so I could take the entire six weeks off while my family was here.  I managed it, and that six week vacation was wonderful.  It was doubly enjoyable, because I didn’t miss a single release in that entire period, or after.

Then there’s sick time.  It’s the same concept–time tucked away against the days when you might need it.  As writers, especially full time writers, we usually do not have the luxury of paid sick leave.  Not that it would help if we did:  Someone has to write and release the books while we’re reclining on the sofa…unless you have spare time up your sleeve and can take the days off without jeopardising your release schedule.

If you have a chronic illness and getting to the desk is problematic, and uncertain, you can do two things:

  1. You can build a daily and weekly writing schedule that has enough wriggle room in it that your release schedule can absorb odd days off here and there, and;
  2. You can work ahead of your release deadlines, so that for more severe attacks, you don’t have the added stress of missing deadlines.

[If you are dealing with chronic illness, I encourage you to check out Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s book, Writing with Chronic Illness.  As Kris sustains a viable fiction career despite her health challenges, she will have far more specific and useful advice.]

How much time?

It depends.  I am never sick.  I can’t remember the last time I had even a cold.  I have off days when sitting at the desk is not fun, but I still manage to write.  So for me, having extra sick days isn’t a priority.

Only you know how much banked time will cover unexpected illnesses.  Many corporations provide two week’s sick leave a year.  That could be a place to start.

Just as only you know what vacation time, or time off for conferences and fun stuff you have coming up.  For example; I’m currently working to get five days ahead of schedule, for a writing conference in early August, for example.  I have no other plans for this summer, but there are long weekends I might try to anticipate and take off, too.

The longer you keep a production schedule and writing schedule, the better you’ll get at anticipating how far ahead of the schedule you prefer to work.

Here’s another aspect to sick & play time:  I’m also looking at trying to get approximately five weeks ahead of my schedule, so I can write a 250,000 word fantasy romance. As the book is more than three times the length of my average novel, just adding it to the schedule without spare time in hand means release dates will be missed.  As I really want to write the book (which puts it in the “play” category), stockpiling time to write it is my only option.

Banking Time is Better Than Catching Up

Why bother working hard to get ahead, when you can just catch up if you fail to write when scheduled?

Couple of reasons:

  1. Catching up always comes with a degree of stress, while using up banked time is 100% guilt free.
  2. What if something else (a return bout of illness, for example) happens to mess with the time you would have used to catch up?

You’d be surprised how often this second one happens.  Suddenly, you’ll be in serious overdraft on your schedule, along with all the attendant stress and–if you’re anything like me–you’ll beat yourself up and your self-talk gets nasty.  That doesn’t help your writing go well, either.

It can become a bad downward spiral, after that.

Better to have the time banked, and not need it — in fact, just knowing the time is there will help you stay on schedule, because there is no stress or worry there about things coming off the rails.

Try it and see.  Get yourself even a few days ahead of your production schedule.  See what it does for your mood and your writing in general.


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