Sunday, February 9, 2014

Finding Time to Write

When I first became a book editor at a New York City publishing house I faced a dilemma. I was also a publishing author and authors have deadlines. Now I had editorial  deadlines too. To tell you the truth I was about to lose my mind.
To make matters worse I was attending a lot of writers’ conferences. I’d be invited as a featured speaker but I was really there to troll for writers for the Regency Romance and Mystery Novel lines I edited. My plate was way past full.
I know this is a circumstance you recognize. The details of your situation may be different but the panic is the same. Like me back then you ask yourself. How do I find time for everything that is expected of me? For everything I expect of myself?
The only solution seems to be that something has to fall off your plate or at least be pushed way over to the side. For writers that sidelined something is too often their writing. Amidst the demands of what we generally think of as Real life our writing life feels least Real.
Yet – in terms of those things that keep us Really alive – writing is at the top of the list. Please excuse me if I speak out of turn but this is true for me and most of the writers I know. So how do we honor our need to satisfy our inner selves and find time to write?
The answer for me came back in those bifurcated author-editor days from a very impressive source – Nora Roberts. Nora is an author whose prolific output has always impressed me. She produces wonderfully engrossing stories one after the other year after year.
How does she do it? I asked her that question up close and personal at one of those writers’ conferences I mentioned. I’d taken a moment to hide in the lobby and catch my breath from the hectic pace of conference madness and there she was.
I knew Nora like so many of us did as a congenial person with a lively wit and generous spirit. With that generosity in mind I moved to the lobby seat next to her and asked the question that had been bedeviling me.
“How do you find time for events like this and all the rest you do and still write?”
Nora lived up to her generous reputation that day. As I recall we adjourned to the bar to continue our conversation. She may have recognized how panicked I was by my time crunch situation because she treated me to a surefire panic remedy – a shot of tequila or maybe it was two.
I might have calmed down some but I was still eager for her answer to my question. She didn’t disappoint. “You have to write wherever you are,” she said.
That flew flat in the face of everything I’d told myself was true about writing – especially fiction writing.  I believed I had to create a special atmosphere for writing and that atmosphere had certain requirements – components of what Virginia Woolf called “a room of one’s own.”
All of those elements were about consistency and stability – an environment I could depend on to be My Writing Space. Maybe not a room of my own but a corner of my own where everything was all about writing all the time. All of which went out the window that day with Nora.
I needed to write wherever I was – wherever I could manage even a little focus. Not several hours or even a single hour. Ten or fifteen minutes would do. On the subway between my home stop and the one near my office. In the moments between lunch and getting back to work.
Those were my personal situation details back then. They differ for me now. They will differ for you. The common ground is that we need to write and to accomplish that we must rethink our requirements and modify our writing behavior.
We must learn to duck our heads down over our screens or notepads – drop into the world of the piece we are writing – and Just Write. Thanks to Nora Roberts I learned to do that. I’m doing it now. I urge you to do it too. Do It Anyway.


Carly Carson said...

Thanks for sharing that advice. It's hard to follow, but necessary.

Amy Valentini said...

Absolutely the best advice ever! Thank you, Alice, and Nora. :-)

Jeanine said...

Alice - I always love your advice. Miss you at RWA/NYC meetings!

Jean Joachim said...

Great advice, Alice. And a wonderful story, to boot. I've always considered a conference a lost cause for writing, except in the airport. Now I'll take your advice and use every minute. Thank you.

Isabo Kelly said...

Brilliant post, Alice. Couldn't agree more. I had to learn that lesson early on too or I'd never get anything done. As my life got more chaotic the lesson has come in real handy. But sometimes I still need to be reminded. And that reminds me, I need to go write :-) Thanks!