Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Through the Crazy

The very first book I wrote took me three years to finish. Two and a half of those I wrote only when the urge struck (maybe an hour or two a week, sometimes less) and I spent most of that time revising the first five chapters over and over again. Then I realized that I could polish those first five chapters all I wanted, but a complete book they did not make.

I finally realized that if I really wanted to be published that I was never going to finish the book if I kept waiting for the muse to tap me on the shoulder and inspire me when I had nothing else to do. Not unless I was looking to turn it into a five year project. I knew few writers could build a successful career only releasing one book every few years, so it was get serious or stop clinging so tight to that dream of being published.

I'm sure you can figure out which path I chose. :)

Although it seemed like an easy choice, it wasn't so easy to make a reality. I didn't get serious about my writing until after my second son was born, a time when I had less “me time” than ever. But I had finally figured out that there was never going to be a "right time" to get serious about my writing. Just like there is rarely a "right time" to actually write.

Our lives are generally chock full of responsibilities and obligations that make finding time to write a challenge. Life is busy and more times than not, just when it seems like you're getting caught up or things are slowing down, something else inevitably falls into your lap.

It’s tempting to only write when the kids are in bed and the house is completely quiet and your muse finally manages to talk over all the other thoughts running through your head (your to-do list for tomorrow, upcoming appointments, bills that need to be paid, laundy that need to be done). But if you wait for that, then it’s going to take years to finish that book.

I’m sure that’s how long it’s taken a lot of writers to finish that first book. But when you sell that book, do you think your editor/publisher is going to want to wait another few years for the next one?

Yes, there's only so much time in the day, and as much as you might wish you could bribe Father Time to tack on another hour, you’ve got to find a way to work with what you’ve got.

You can’t wait for your life to be less crazy to start/finish that book. Chances are it’s never going to settle down enough, not if you have a family and/or work outside the home too. There will always be laundry and cleaning that needs to be done. There will always be something that is bound to come up unexpectedly. Your kids will inevitably need something when you’re writing, same as they always need something the second they spot you on the phone.

So to help you find a way to write through the crazy, here are a few tips that get me through the day.

~ If listening to Barney or Dora etc makes it hard to concentrate on your scene, try using headphones and listening to music while you’re sitting on the couch next to your little one.

~ Try writing longhand so you can take advantage of the those moments in between carting your kids from one place to the next.

~ Expect to be interrupted. It’s less frustrating if you know any moment your family could need something, and if it takes a few minutes afterward to find the flow again, you’re still getting more done than if you hadn’t taken that little bit of time to write.

~ Anticipate as many interruptions as you can and prepare for them. It seems like my kids always get hungry the second they see me try to squeeze in a couple hundred words, so I always try to have something on hand for them to grab.

~ Accept that it's not the end of the world if you only do one load of laundry.

~ Trust that even if you haven’t quite figured out what happens next in your book that it will come to you when you plant your butt in a chair and just try.

Your Fairy Godmother is not going to wave her wand and present you with unlimited interruption-free writing time, though, wouldn’t that be awesome? It’s up to you to fit writing into your life anyway you can, to write through the crazy, and believe that it will feel incredible when you do.


Meg Benjamin said...

Wow, Syd, great post! Ursula LeGuinn used to argue that having kids running around under your feet actually made you a better writer--Moms learn to concentrate on the now!

Kate Davies said...

What? I have to actually write? Sob.

Time for a little more BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). Thanks for the nudge!

Skylar Kade said...

I'm with Kate on this--awesome reminder. I'm heading over to my writing desk for some BICHOK, too.

Erin Nicholas said...

It's funny... I'm so used to noise that now when I get some quiet time my mind wanders worse! *g* I think something we have to do is learn to forgive ourselves-- we're not always going to make things balance and get everything done and that has to be okay! :)
We're all really glad you find the time to write somehow, Syd! :)

Kelly Jamieson said...

Great advice Syd.

Juniper Bell said...

No fairy godmother? You're breaking my heart. ;) This is very excellent advice, Sydney, very much appreciated. It's too bad I can't read my own handwriting, or I'd use the longhand trick more often.