Keeping Up

A friend of mine advised me when I started this site that I should post at least once a week, because otherwise people will stop paying attention. To those of you that have read and talked to me about my posts, I hope you’re still with me, and I’m sorry for the delay. Between completing teacher’s college and trying to find a job, time seems to have been going by too quickly, so that I completely lost track of how long it had been since I updated this site.

Since that’s the topic on my mind right now, I’m going to write about what I find is one of the biggest challenges of being a writer: trying to find time and mental focus to write. I’ve remarked to my fiancée that humans (including myself) tend to make life very, very complicated, to the point that it amazes me sometimes how we’re able to accomplish anything. I realize that some of this complication is unavoidable – cleaning and maintenance at home, finding work, etc. – and unfortunately trying to reduce life’s complexity is sometimes like stopping a meteor with a BB gun. There’s just too much that we need to do. And, often, too much that we want to do.

As a writer, I’m finding this particularly challenging. It’s difficult to block out everything that I have to do and concentrate on my writing. Since I can’t ignore these things, it’s hard to justify taking an afternoon to focus on writing. And in my current jobless state, I also can’t justify going to a coffee shop regularly to get away from my household tasks. And I can’t just write anywhere, because for me writing comes easily only in the right atmosphere, so that going to a quiet library for free isn’t an option. AND lugging my laptop, power cables, and other necessities around can be a pain in the ass. AND how do you explain to family and friends that you need to be left alone for a few hours to write, especially when one of the many things you want to do is spend time with them?

You see the issue, I hope.

So what is a writer to do? Honestly, I don’t have a definite solution. No writer does, but every writer has advice on how to do it. Most recently, Diane Schoemperlen shared her strategy with me, which is to figure out what time of day you’re most productive and set that aside for writing, whenever possible. I’ve been trying (and failing) to get into a routine on this, and I’m hoping I’ll figure it out soon. I think that the problem of not keeping up with writing is just something that every writer has to deal with, and try not to get too stressed out about. If two weeks go by without getting any writing done, don’t feel like you’re letting down your practice. Just think of writing as something that you like to do that you haven’t had time for recently, but that you’re resolved to make time for in the next couple of days.

I said every writer has advice, and I just slipped into mine without thinking. Oops. My point above is that writing should be fun; I write mainly because I enjoy it, and I try to avoid getting stressed about not writing, because then I risk adding it to the list of things I have to do. And I definitely don’t want that.

What are your thoughts, fellow writers? Feel free to share them with me. Or we can collectively lament how complicated and busy our lives are.

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5 thoughts on “Keeping Up

  1. Well said, my friend! I hear you on the issue of knowing whether or not what you’re working on is worthwhile. I’ve spent months getting a short story exactly where I want it to be, and then received rejection after rejection from magazines that I think it’s suited for. There’s a huge risk here of becoming disheartened, which is why I make sure to concentrate on the joy I get from writing. I’ve told people in the past that even if I’m never published again, I’ll keep writing, just because I love it.

    I like Seinfeld’s idea of using the calendar — I think I’m going to try it. I’ll pass on the Christian Bok lifestyle, however. One of my few maxims is to never sacrifice sleep, and unfortunately I can’t live off just two hours a night!

    AMENDED: I just read the article you posted, and I find the topic kind of upsetting. I’ve mentioned to you before that I’ve had to work not to feel rushed, that I have to produce like crazy to have any hope of being a successful writer, and here we have some of the best writers of our time doing just that to maintain their success. It shouldn’t be a bad thing to take time with a novel or short story in order to make it the best that it can be. I watched an interview with George R.R. Martin where he expressed his frustration at readers demanding that he complete A Song of Ice and Fire faster in order to sate their needs, instead of giving him the space to write the quality novel that he wants to produce. We live in a society where impatience is high and everything is expected to be immediate, and people generally don’t appreciate the amount of work that goes into writing. If people are impatient for an author’s next novel, that’s their problem.

    • I know, it’s ridiculous; I agree with the author quoted at the end of the article: As much as I want to be productive, I never want to have my success based on my level of productivity. I also find it ridiculous how the market is apparently “insatiable.” I know I’ll never run out of interesting things I want to read, without another book ever being published; I’m never caught up on my reading list. With so many books in existence, you’d think readers could find something else in which they’d be just as interested – or, god forbid, try something they’ve never tried, while they’re waiting for the next installment from their favourite brand. Or if they’re so impatient anyway, go to the movies. To me, the market isn’t insatiable so much as it is oversaturated – with the latest fad fiction and derivatives, put out by authors and publishers who are more concerned with output than quality, catering to indiscriminate readers who’ll eat up anything. Ironically, that’s precisely why new writers today should be putting more thought into their work than ever: there’s already so much stuff out there.

  2. I agree on the oversaturation — just look at how many teen fantasy books are on sale at Chapters. I also don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I don’t have anything to read; even if there were no new books out that caught my eye, I would read an old favorite. I just hope that there are enough writers with our mindset that genre fiction generally doesn’t become too much like Harlequin romance — churn out X number of books per quarter, and who cares about quality.

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