I have been reading books about writers recently, having found Writers [on Writing] (a collection of essays about writing from the New York Times) and the Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction, Vol. 2: Inspiration and Discipline on my sweetheart’s bookshelf. I am looking, over and over, for one thing: I want them to tell me how they do it. How do they get up and get themselves to the desk? How do they make the writing happen? How how how. I don’t want the theory — I want the practical: I get this much sleep, I get up at 6, I sit at the typewriter/keyboard/notebook and do not stop for two hours or six or forty-five minutes. Then I get up and I do something completely different. If I write a page, that’s great. If I get two new sentences, I feel successful. Eventually it all coagulates into a book.
Later, I’ll want the next part — how to get an agent, how to get it published, how to get it edited enough that someone besides my best friends will willingly read it. For now I’m still at the beginning and this is what I’m looking for: how to incorporate writer into a real life that also includes job and family and friends. Tell me how to we take care of our bodies while we do that, how to get a book finished when we have too many jobs and everyone’s telling us it’s impossible, how to write a book when we’re depressed and disappointed, how to do it anyway.
I want to tell you about reading the small snippets of “The Writing Life” section of the glimmer train guide volume two, the permission offered by one writer who says he writes from 8:30-12 every day but Sunday, and who feels it has been a good writing day when he gets a couple of paragraphs written. Oh. Or the person who describes an eight-hour writing day taken in spurts, an hour or two here and there in between caring for her children and parents, in between dealing with the house and pets — and that she often doesn’t start actually writing until mid-afternoon. There are the people, sure, who say that when they were just starting out (and at what point do we feel like we’re not just starting out anymore?) they spent the day at work and with their families and then wrote from midnight until 2 in the morning. I read that and bludgeon myself with the idea that surely she did that every single day until her book was done — and then I remember that no one’s perfect, even published writers, and that that person probably did write some nights from midnight until 2am; other times they probably just fell asleep once the dishes were done.
Here’s what’s behind all this: I’ve grown quite frustrated with my resistant and procrastiantory self, the self that gets in the way of writing, the self that doesn’t believe I can be a professional (paid and published) writer, the self that decides we should spend a year watching television instead of writing any one of the number of books waiting on the back burners of my creative kitchen. There is always something that needs to be done, finished, completed before I can start writing — always something that is, authentically, more important than this made up story: healing work is clamoring for me to tend to it or I have to return phone calls or it’s time to go to my job (or my other job, or the other other job) or someone else’s writing needs attention or my heart is breaking or it’s time to move to another apartment or my dog is sick or my partner is freaking out or I’m depressed or there’s a workshop in a couple of hours and I need to prepare for it or — these reasons are not bullshit. They’re not made up. There’s real life that we have to steal time from in order to get a book written — and people do it every day. Get in the game, Jen.
I have hit a wall of no more excuses. I am tired of listening to the voice inside that has both every good reason why I can’t possibly write today and deep sorrow that I haven’t even gotten to the place where I can send a synopsis of a novel out as a query.
Who decides what’s more important than writing a book of fiction, that the made-up stories that we have used to craft and save our lives with? So I’m committing, and setting a number of other projects aside until this first book has a full first draft. Finally. No more excuses.
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Thanks to you for your words today, too. Keep going. I can’t wait to read what you’re creating.