I recently started working full time in, like, a proper job. One that takes me away from my desk, away from my WIP, away from my dream, godammit. And I am yet to establish a rhythm of production, to schedule in those untouchable hours around the ones I spend earning a reliable crust.
I realise I’m not alone, and I also know that some writers can sit down wherever they happen to be AND JUST WRITE. The local coffee shop (Julia Crouch), an airport lounge (Peter James), an uncomfortable hotel room late at night (Denise Mina), the back of a cab (Peter James – OK the man can write anywhere). But I seem to need to be at my desk, with my dictionary and thesaurus within easy reach, using my well worn keyboard. Oh – and did I mention I need complete quiet?
Obviously I’m not making it easy for myself with so many restrictions and I need to toughen up. But is it the mark of a true writer to be able to produce prose halfway up a mountain/stuck deep underground in an overcrowded tube?
Just to test myself, I’m writing this post sitting at my kitchen table as my tea gets cold and my muesli hardens in the bowl. My shoulders are hunched, my fingers keep hitting the wrong keys, my bum’s going numb and I’m totally distracted by the hum of the fridge. It seems I have a long way to go.
Douglas Jackson started writing his gladiator novels sitting on the train commuting to and from his job at the Scotsman. I’ve read about an American writer of cozies (Elizabeth Craig) who snatches 15 or 20 minutes during the day whenever she finds a gap in her childcare responsibilities. How do they do it? What’s the secret? And will it be revealed to me eventually if I continue to move outside the comfort zone I’ve made so thoroughly comfortable?
My current WIP is the third draft of the 2nd novel in my loosely connected crime series (each book/short story connected to every other by at least one character) and it’s pretty much a complete rewrite of what I had before. The basic premise is the same, but that’s a lot of first draft wrangling to go through when I’m supposed to be wearing my editor’s hat (and spending the biggest chunk of each day at someone else’s desk). I’m 9 chapters in with 45 more to go. It’s like chipping away at a block of marble with a plastic spoon. Other people can polish off a thousand words in 30 minutes (allegedly) and I want a bit of their magic.
If anyone knows where I can get some, all answers gratefully received in the comments section.
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Hi Eva, great post. You bring up a point that probably plagues many writers – how does one get comfortable with a writing habit when that habit needs to fit around the rest of your life? I have not been able to accomplish what Elizabeth Craig does (though I wish I could!), but I have found, perhaps because I currently have NO office, that I don’t need to be in a particular place to write. Surprising to me, I am able to concentrate in coffee shops with music blaring, and I’m beginning to wonder whether the anonymous setting actually helps me more than writing from home, where a million undone chores constantly stare at me. I often take time at lunch to write as well. I don’t get tons done, but every little bit adds up to something in the end. And BTW, congratulations on the new job!
Hi, Eva–such a terrific post. I’m happy to know I’m not alone in chipping away at a block of marble with a plastic spoon (fantastic imagery!). Also, numb bum: been there all too often! It’s funny the environment we need to produce prose, no? In my previous life I was a journalist and I’ll never forget this one professor in J-school who maintained that we should be able to bang out a breaking news story with analysis and nuance in the most crowded, noisiest newsroom using only a pen and paper if need be. I still haven’t been able to apply that lesson to fiction writing…c’est la vie. Great reading your work–looking forward to more!