I know I’ve mentioned schedules before. I also know how often writers complain about their day jobs and how much they’d get done in only they didn’t owe so much time to something else. Having now been on both sides of that equation, I’m here to tell you something.
It ain’t necessarily so.
Something always fills the time. Something always demands it. If it’s not the day job, it’s something else. I’m not going to be specific here because those “somethings” are going to be different for everyone. The point is, writing time always was and always will be time you’ve made for yourself. Odds are no one’s going to give it to you. I personally found that having a day job forced me to be very careful about how I budgeted my time and encouraged me to use what I had wisely. All that went out the window and for a while now I admit I’ve been flailing, thinking I had all the time in the world when that simply wasn’t true.
Took me a while, but I finally get it. I still haven’t totally worked out what I’m going to do about it, but I have some ideas I’m trying out now. One of them might even work. We’ll see. At least I’ve finally recognized the problem, which is the same one any mortal has, day job or no.
Even as I started thinking about this subject, I had to flash back on a classic George Carlin routine: “My needs aren’t being met!” The answer to which was: “Then get fewer needs.”
We try. In some ways the tools of being a writer are some of the simplest for any avocation you can name. Most of our tools are internal, so no stocked shop, power tools, grinders, wrenches…just time, space, paper and pen. Which is, of course, rubbish, and you can see the flaws right away. I mean, sure, you can write with a pen and paper, but when it comes time to actually do something useful with what you’ve written, at the very minimum you’re going to need a way to produce typed copy. In theory a working typewriter will do, but in practice you’re generally talking about a computer and email. Perseverance is a matter of personality and just how long one can bash your head against a brick wall, but basic functioning as a working writer is another matter. There are things required. So that got me thinking about what writers really need, as opposed to, say, what we want. Continue reading
I managed about 1000 words on Monday, then about 2000 yesterday. Today…well I guess I’ll find out when it’s time to take stock. Writers love word counts. Writers hate word counts. Or rather, love having them or hate not having them. Even if you’re not working on something, you feel like you should be, and why the heck aren’t you working, you lazy worthless slacker??? Where’s your word count??? Continue reading
The cliché is “If you love sausage, never watch it being made.” As someone who once loved such and had seen it made on several occasions, I can attest that there’s some truth in that. Another cliché is “Scratch a writer, find a reader.” So there’s the dilemma. As readers we neither want to know nor need to know the process that produces the stories and books we love to read. Sure, there’s idle curiosity at work, but past a point, watching a writer at work is a lot like watching paint dry, without the drama. As writers, looking away during the process is not an option. Which perhaps explains why some writers never, ever re-read their own work except to review a proof, and then only under duress. I understand that. For my own part, when I’ve done something that at least approximates the vision I had of it, I don’t mind. It reminds me that now and then I get it right.
None of which changes the fact that the process can be very chaotic and messy and unpleasant. But it’s got to be done, or no sausage. Continue reading
“I never plan things. I start writing them, and it’s like a magician forces a card on me. ‘Pick a card!’ I couldn’t start it if I knew what I was going to do.” – William Gibson
I’ve said it before in a slightly different context, but now it’s time to explore the idea to its logical conclusion. So repeat after me: “I’m a writer. And I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
I’ve talked about “foxes and hedgehogs” to compare and contrast different approaches to writing. Today I want to talk about different approaches to process. Specifically: how do you begin? As with the whole fox/hedgehog metaphor there are no absolutes, but there is a spectrum, and we tend to gravitate toward one end or the other. In short, to begin a project we either tend toward Order or Chaos. Continue reading