Friday, August 17, 2012

Creating A Writer's Life

“And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” -Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

I've always been somewhat enamored of the idea of a life centered around writing.  It strikes me as rather romantic: wake up in the morning, have breakfast, make myself a big, strong cup of coffee, sit down at the keyboard, type out a few pages, crack my knuckles, go for a walk or a swim, make dinner, enjoy a leisurely evening with the family.  Go to sleep, dream productive dreams, wake up the next morning, and do it all over again.

Of course, my life during the writing of my current novel has not even remotely resembled that ideal.

For my first novel, I've had to claw time out of my day whenever I can, most often writing with a baby either screaming in my ear or, if I'm lucky, sleeping on my lap.  I have no schedule to speak of, and so things like laundry and dinner and grocery shopping invariably get short shrift when I'm on a role.

I have no illusions about the difficulties of working at home, alone, with a boy approaching toddler age.  The very idea of a schedule right now is laughable.  So I make do with what I have, and quietly plan for the day when my writer's life will look the way I've always dreamed.

The Work

In a recent article on the Writer's Digest website, writer Erik Larson bemoaned the "binge writing" so many writers engage in: "They write for 10 hours straight, riding the perfect wave of inspiration. The problem is, you still need to wake up the next day and do it again."

Touche, sir.

Someday, when I have the luxury of being able to stick to a schedule, I plan to stick to a schedule.  In the article, Larson goes on to say that he sets aside three hours a day, seven days a week, to devote to nothing but writing.  Then, he disengages.  Does something else.  He cites his dog, tennis, and cooking as his favorite ways to remove himself from his writing.

Which brings up an important point: if you're going to write realistically about life- any aspect of it- it is essential that you get your butt out of the desk chair and live some of it.


The idea of not going on writing marathons on a regular basis is one I can really get behind.  I can remember when I was younger, I would go on hours-long streaks of creativity, which would inevitably lead to burnout, not to mention the shirking of other responsibilities.

Now, with the roles of "wife" and "mom" added to my dossier, keeping writing in a set time frame has become doubly important.  Now, even if I wanted to lose myself in my work for hours on end, it's just not possible.

Like Larson, I've found that cooking keeps me grounded.  Writing is a very cerebral activity, and doesn't offer much in the way of instant gratification.  There's something about the inherent earthiness and immediacy of cooking that brings me back from the outer rim.  It's just as creative a pursuit as writing, but offers something else that writing doesn't: community.

Reaching Out

I have high hopes of attending the Romance Writers of America's conference in Atlanta next summer, but I'm not waiting that long to start building my writing community.  My Luddite-days behind me, I now have a definite- albeit modest- presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the RWA website.  Twitter, especially, has become a delightful way to connect with other writers and readers whom I would otherwise never have met.

No one succeeds in a vacuum, and even though writing is an inherently solitary pursuit, in the end it's no exception.

I have other goals, and plans, and dreams, but as any writer can tell you, sometimes sharing everything costs you a little magic.  After all, the best cards need to be held closest to the chest. 

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