Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping On

I loved Aline's recent blog "Bookzilla" and wanted to continue the thread here. She hit on many relevant aspects of writing—from the impact writers' internal struggles have on loved ones, to the desire for the freedom to write when and wherever one wants—that many writers ponder.

No author I know would turn down financial success. As Stephen King writes in On Writing, "You can never be too rich or too thin. If you think you can be, you were never really fat or really poor." Money, after all, really is freedom. But I do understand where Aline is coming from. Free time, in my experience, never fosters industriousness; it only leads me to more free time—in the form of procrastination. Busy people actually do get more done. I write more when I'm teaching. On school vacations, there is always "time to do it later." And, of course, we all know how that scenario ends up. With many blank pages.

Procrastination at its best
Aline's statements about Ian Rankin (a writer who I love) were interesting. However, unlike the troubles Rankin experiences at page 65, my personality challenges arise differently. Simply put, you don't want to be around me if I'm not writing. All writers "hit the wall" and get antsy when the plot isn't working. (PLOT is a four-letter word for a reason.) But I don't mind the spiraling plot that seemingly goes nowhere. I've walked into that propellor before. ("Why let it eat away at you so badly?" my wife asked me about five years ago when I was struggling with (I think) Bad Lie. "The books always work themselves out." She was right. And the book did.

What keeps me awake is not writing. (Given what I wrote above, does that make vacation an oxymoron? Or am I just a masochist?) So, although I don't outline, facing the black hole plot alone, I do schedule. With my wife and three daughters, I live on the top floor of a boys' dorm at a New England prep school, where I'm dorm parent to 16 15-year-old boys. This comes with many evening duties. (They don't call it in loco parentis for nothing.) So I try to write in the morning. I have three daily alarms: 4 a.m. (if I get to bed by 10 p.m.); 5 a.m. (if I'm to bed by 11 p.m.); and 6 a.m. (if I've been up until midnight or later working in the dorm). Some days I get four pages written, some days I get a single paragraph, but even that lets me breathe. And I can smile and face the day.

No matter who you are in this business—Ian Rankin or a midlist midlister like me—everyone faces challenges and figures out what works for him or her. And, in the end, we keep writing.

1 comment:

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