Thursday, December 02, 2021


Last week, I wrote an email to my agent that many writers have sent: an explanation for why a manuscript was late. Last summer, I said I’d have a book on her desk by the fall. I drove my daughter back to New York City yesterday after the holiday, and winter’s first snow was falling steadily, so autumn has come and gone.

And so has my self-imposed deadline.

It leads me to think about deadlines and manuscripts and how and why books stall or get delayed.

I often hear people say, When I have more time [I’ll finish my book]. For some, time means everything. When I was an undergrad, a professor of creative writing told me I would need large chunks of time to write. That hasn’t been the case. For me, writing requires –– above everything else –– a clear mind, even if I only write in short spurts. When I sit down, focus is more important than time. I can finish a book a year writing an hour and a half each morning.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said this of distractions: “At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say, 'Come out unto us.' But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.”
Cluttered Bookshelf, Cluttered Mind?

Must’ve been hard to be a Transcendentalist without a clear head.

So how do I account for my delay? This fall, I had too many different things going on –– work, the pursuit of a work-related opportunity, and writing. My head was in too many places to focus when I sat down for 90 minutes each morning. That’s not happened many times previously. I’m not a believer in Writer’s Block. I’ve never had it. (I still produced some writing this fall but spun my wheels a lot.)

Now the dust has settled and I’m on the verge of a new professional chapter in my day job, I’ll get my head back in the book, and, hopefully, send my agent a completed manuscript by the spring.

I’d like to hear others’ views on the role Focus plays in their work.

1 comment:

Arthur Kerns said...

I wake up, get my cup of coffee, and like you write for an hour or more before the world wakes, or I look at my mail, or go on social media. Amazing, how the draft pages accumulate over the course of time.