Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Ask any writer and they'll likely be able to tell you what they've sacrificed to be one, but this leads some writers to fall into a martyr mentality. And in my case, instead of leading to martyr mentality, it leads to a lot of guilt.
Part of my guilt comes from the fact that I write full time. Theoretically. That is, right now, I don't have another job demanding my time. (Although I do need to get one...) Many of my writer friends with jobs and kids or both are jealous of this, thinking, I'm sure: if only I had all the time Maureen had, I'd write five books a year. And this makes me feel lazy and guilty and like a failure at times.
But before I get all maudlin on you, know that I am able, almost always, to shrug those feelings off. Because I know that no matter how many hours a writer has available, sitting down, concentrating, keeping focused to produce words and sentences and pages is hard, hard work. In fact, at times I find the busier I am with other things, the easier it is to concentrate on the writing. That is, if I only have 2 hours, I'll use those 2 hours, whereas when an entire day stretches out in front of me, I procrastinate and waste time and slack. (Yes, Sinead, I know. I need to get me a job.)
I've taken a lot of flak from a family member (who thinks she understands writing, because she was a literature major in University) for referring to what I do (or endeavor to do) each day as "work". And yet nearly every successful writer I've heard or read on the topic says one of the keys to their success is to consider it work -- to show up every day, even when they don't feel like it, and to have some sort of feeling of responsibility to the "work".
I recently listened to a talk from a past RWA session, and I wish I could remember who was speaking right now... or who they'd been talking to... but let's just say Successful Romance Writer met Successful Literary Writer at a conference or cocktail party, or something.
SRW self-deprecatingly said to SLW, "I don't write anything as high brow as you." (SLW may have in fact been a well-respected non-fiction writer, or reporter. I missed the details. I was listening in my car and couldn't rewind.)
But the point is that SLW responded, "No matter what we're writing, all writers are just blue collar workers in the end, getting words down on the page."
I'm not sure I 100% agree with the blue collar worker analogy, but I get and appreciated what the man said to SRW. He acknowledged that it takes a strong work ethic to be a writer, and that beyond the creative part, beyond the intellectual part, beyond the fun part, beyond the stuff that makes us feel smart or clever or like god ;-) ... it comes down to work in the end. Writers can't afford to wait for inspiration to strike, they need to work to make it strike.
I read somewhere that Sommerset Maughn was once quoted as saying he only wrote when inspiration struck -- it just so happened that inspiration struck him every morning at 5:00 am when he sat down at his typewriter. And I'm coming to believe that's the key. Writing every day (or at least on a schedule, as if it's a job.)
So that's what I've been trying. And so far, I haven't been entirely successful. In fact, this very moment is my scheduled "work on my novel" time and I'm, um, not doing that, because I watched TV last night instead of writing this post. But I'm working toward an everyday at the same time schedule. So many things in life take practice to become habits and I'm refusing to beat myself up right now for not instantly falling into a new pattern of behavior. Instead, I'll endeavor to do better tomorrow.
And give up TV? Get serious.
Posted by Maureen McGowan at 11:10 AM