Thursday, January 19, 2006

Writers Write

...or so I've been told. Most writers who produce texts on the craft argue that if you want to succeed, you must write every day (or very nearly that). Anne Lamott in the most excellent "Bird by Bird" and Carolyn See in "Living a Literary Life" both make a case for sitting in front of your computer daily. Stephen King agrees in "On Writing", and he's one scary dude.

I agree with them in principle, but in reality all three of them have been Writing Full Time for many years now. The real question is, what to do if you work full time, have to fight traffic home and then make a dinner that fits your Atkins, South Beach, Vegan, Organic, etc lifestyle. Not to mention shaking the dust off your exercise clothes now and then, talking to your friends, dealing with your family, reading good books, spending enough time with your children so they don't become know, life.

The fact of the matter is that we just might not be able to sit our butts down every day. I try to focus on writing every day. I notice characters, images, situations; I harvest details from what's going on around me and use it in my work. When I'm out and about, I send ideas to my mail account from my pager so I don't forget them. I think about where my own characters want to go, and how I'm going to get them there. But I don't write every day. And I think that's okay.

For most of the people I know who are actively writing and holding down jobs, it's not unusual to have taken 2+ years to finish a halfway decent draft of a novel. (And that's before you include the submission process, an experience sometimes referred to a reject-o-rama. More on that later). So I don't think my progress is terrible, but it can get discouraging. Has anyone seen the scene in the movie Sliding Doors when the main male character finally bursts out: "Of course I haven't finished the book. I'm a writer. I'm never going to finish the book."

Sometimes I feel like that.

On top of that, I'm now turning to other projects so I can start to wean myself off of The First Book and get ready for the next one. I've had an idea rattling around in my noggin for about six months that I'm dying to get started on. Of course, first drafts are so sloppy and fun that it's not really like work, unlike the position I'm now in with editing The First Book where I'm constantly looking for the perfect word, the perfect image, the perfect piece of dialogue, the perfect ending. It's enough to give you a stroke.

So I'd like to get the editing of this book finished as soon as possible, it's pretty much as simple as that. And the only way to do that is, as the pros say, write more. How to do that? I'm going to have to cut down on/get rid of some of my time-wasting vices, the worst of which is definitely TV. Yes, it's true, as much as I hate to admit it, I'm a sucker for TV. Even worse, we have digital cable and potential access to more channels than is even remotely reasonable. (There's even a Book TV channel! That's gotta count for something, no?)

BHJ and I keep the TV off on the weekends if we're working on our various computer-related adventures. Now, I'm just not turning it on when I come home from work. It seems to be helping. It's like anything else worth having; you have to sacrifice. I get that.

Next on my list to give up? Definitely exercise.



Flikka said...

It's the same for art - i've been told that one has to work on it every day but sometimes the rest of your existence intrudes or despite all your best efforts to make something good it looks like shit. It's much to personal of an addiction to pigeon hole into "you must".....

Maia said...

Flikka: great way to put it and thanks for bringing up the art angle. With solitary pursuits like these, sometimes we (I) can forget that there are other communities of people out there going through the same challenges.


jamie ford said...

If I can't write every day, at least I try to be a writer every day. I'm blogging. I'm reading to absorb content and style. I'm making notes on whatever my current WIP is. I'm looking for new places to submit. (And I'm buying waaaaaaaay too many books).

Maia said...

Jamie: Yep, that all sounds good to me. I'll swing by your blog and take a look.
I hear you about the book thing - I really think my husband is going to have to do an intervention one of these days.