Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Smidgens of time

Barbara here. Late, but I have an excuse. It was the dog!

If you have read my blogs before or seen my Facebook and website posts, you will know I have a dog. Well, as of two days ago, I have two dogs, and the addition of this fluffy, adorable ball of fur has put a serious dent in my writing time, not to mention my concentration. He is currently sleeping on the floor at my feet and the other, who is unimpressed with the new arrival, is sleeping protectively on the sofa beside me. The little one will wake soon, and so this had better be a short blog.

It is now fourteen years since the publication of my first novel, DO OR DIE, but I have been writing all my life. It was initially a catharsis and a creative outlet for me, without the thought or hope of publication, until I discovered a network of fellow crime writers in the city and drew inspiration from their enthusiasm. In my various book appearances over the past fourteen years, people have often remarked, wistfully, that they always wanted to write a book but they don't have time. It's true that many of us lead busy lives and between the full-time job, the kids, and the household obligations, we have trouble carving out the time to write. That is why so many people finally get down to serious writing once the children have grown up and the job has been downsized or ditched altogether.

But for most serious writers, including myself, writing is not a choice; it is a passion. We are driven to write. Stories whirl in our heads, begging to be put to paper. Even if we have extraordinarily busy lives, we find the time because we have to. Housework may not get done, dinners may be slapdash, or sleep itself takes a back seat. Some of my friends get up at the ludicrous hour of 5 a.m. so they can put in a couple of hours of writing before heading off to their day jobs. This was not an option for me. I could not formulate a coherent sentence at 5 a.m. I am a night owl, so when others are crawling gratefully into bed, I am just hitting my stride. Once the children were asleep, or later while the rest of the family watched television, did homework, etc., I scribbled away for a couple of hours a night. I stole smidgens of time through the day, I plotted new ideas while stuck in traffic jams, emptying the dishwasher, or taking the dog for a walk. Dogs are very good listeners, by the way.

I am reminded of this now as I wonder — how will I get any work done for the next few months? I have a first draft to complete, and the usual endless round of blurbs and synopses and blogs and promo activities to do. I will find a way, just as I did before. I will adjust my writing schedule. No more luxurious long stretches of time to sink into the writing zone and punch out 2000 words a day. I wrote an entire PhD dissertation while my children took naps or watched Polka Dot Door. I can do this. One small bit, one dog nap, at a time.

That's a message worth passing on to those who think they want to write a book. Do you fill the small empty spaces in your day with writing, even if only in your head? Does the story possess you and demand to be told? Are you blind to the dust bunnies accumulating in the corners and deaf to the often vacuous lure of television? Would you rather write than go to a movie?

I'm not saying the house should never get cleaned and you should never just relax. In the interests of your mental health and family life, you need a balance. But if you're going to write that novel you dream about, you have to start by finding those smidgens of time. Fighting for them. Fending off the distractions.

Like children and puppies and other things that clamour to be heard.

I should end this blog with a couple of promo announcements. NONE SO BLIND, the tenth Inspector Green novel, is about to hit the bookstores, and I have two launches planned in October. The Toronto launch is Oct. 7 at the Arts & Letters Club, 14 Elm St. at 7 p.m. If you live in the GTA, come on down! I am sharing the launch with Rick Blechta, who is releasing ROSES FOR A DIVA. Great books both!

And secondly, THE WHISPER OF LEGENDS is a finalist for the 2014 Ottawa Book Awards. Winner to be announced Oct. 22. Thrilling affirmation for all those lonely stolen smidgens of time spent at the keyboard.


Rick Blechta said...

Totally off-topic, but I love the word "smidgens". Using up yet another smidgen of time that I don't have, I will look up its origins...

Eileen Goudge said...

You're so right, Barbara. You have grab it where you can because doesn't offer itself up to us on a silver plate