I had a nice conversation with a new friend last night. Although I’m out of conversing practice, she asked a question for which I might have some answers. She mentioned that she would like to write a book, but was having trouble getting started. “How do you carve out the time,” she asked, “and stick with it?”
I fed her some encouraging words: set a schedule; and then ignore your family and friends; go deep into your head and never really come back out again.
Easy peasy, new pal. Go get ’em.
See you in a few years when your belly is pudgy from not working out because you gave up everything to write. You probably will eat potato chips in bed because you need comfort from what is consuming you. Few people will understand why what you do is taking so long and why you are missing in action most of the time.
And if you are doing it properly, which means you are doing it all of the time (not on a set schedule), I won’t see you at a cocktail party because the thought of socializing instead of writing will fill you with a sickening level of angst. You won’t want to go out anyway, because you aren’t the young nymph you used to be. Even your mother will say, “You used to be so glamorous.”
It’s true. Once you start your writing life, say goodbye to the self you used to be. Your eyes will be red from sitting at the computer all day and night, and the bags under your eyes will increase with your writing output. (The situation is especially severe if you were a swimmer in your glory days and your goggles have left permanent damage around your eyeballs.)
Indeed, my writing life is much like my swimming life. I trained for years, for thousands of yards, for hours every day to drop fractions of a second in my short race.
And when I wasn’t in the water, I was thinking about the water. How to control it. Master it. Furthermore, I was grappling with notions of time all of the time. How to control it. Beat it.
Sometimes, I lost a race. Yet I was always always calculating and measuring the water, time and me. My desire to get faster never waned, even though my event lasted only 23.79 seconds.
My writing often loses. Actually, more often than not. A story doesn’t get published. A book gets rejected 39 times. No matter, I can’t stop. I recalculate.
A new story needs writing. A new book needs conquering. Another cocktail party needs ignoring. And most of this is for naught. To no applause.
There are millions of writers out there, writing millions of words. Most of those words better than the ones you’ve so painfully chosen. But you tread on, because you have no choice. With time, though, your writing will improve. Still, it will never be good enough.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the conflicts that will rage in your head while receiving no reward for your sacrifices:
- Should I take the dog for a walk or write? If you take the dog for a walk, then you’ll be lamenting not writing for the duration. What if I don’t walk the dog and let him pee on the floor. Cleaning up the pee will take 3 minutes instead of the 30 minutes wasted by walking. THUS GIVING YOU TWENTY-SEVEN EXTRA MINUTES TO WRITE!!!!
- See a movie or write? You love movies–you married a man who makes them–but that means three hours of writing are gone. Forever. Plus, the screenwriting in the movie will be so good that you will feel bad. Very very bad. Movies take a toll on your time and your soul. Too risky. Stay at home, and miss much of what is great about pop culture.
- Read a book? Forget about it. Jeez, you don’t want someone else’s words in your head! There’s already enough voices in your head if you are writing a lot. Don’t add to the noise. In fact, don’t listen to music either. Tell everyone in your house to take a vow of silence in your presence.
- Coffee date with an old or new friend? BOOM. Words spoken reduce the amount of words written. I once went to a day-long writers conference and I still mourn for those 8 hours lost to listening about writing. I went home and wrote about it.
You really want to do this, new friend? Glad I could be there last night because usually I am at home. Writing.
Do you see what’s happened? I’ve spent all Sunday morning writing about you wanting to write. I haven’t made my bed. Now it’s 2 p.m., so I might as well just keep writing and kiss the day goodbye, as well as myself. And you too.
One Comment Add yours
Nice commentary on writing and it made me think of how Tim O’Brien said it in his Telling Tails article in Atlantic Monthly in 2009 when he referred to the “hard work and heavy lifting” of the writer.