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On writing over the holidays

December 18, 2010

Cruising along still at 2500-3000 words a week, clumped together in the Saturday-Monday time frame. I think about what needs to be written on the off days, which expedites the physical act of writing to some extent. Tuesdays are for revisions from WUTA and setting up the writing days. (One of the great features of a writers’ group that meets weekly is the subtle pressure–not so subtle if you show up empty-handed a week or two–to produce.)

So for the current novel that’s the rhythm I’m following, which is why I view the upcoming holiday week with trepidation. In theory a (counts on fingers) break of eleven days is a golden opportunity to produce. In practice, life is more complicated. For most of that time I assume I will have a seven-year old boy careening around the house. That he’s my son takes some of the edge off, but less than you might think. The twinge I get consigning him to watching TV or even interacting with the “right” educational websites keeps the time limited. Grandma, bless her heart, may take up some of the slack, but you know, he’s MY son, and I do like spending time with him. Maybe not every hour of the day, but you know, time.

I recall a writers’ conference I went to once up in Puget Sound, where the keynote speaker was some Major Author or other. She spoke with great conviction about the need to shove duties onto one’s spouse in order to free time up to write. She also talked about writing at three in the morning because that’s when her family didn’t bug her. I assumed, or perhaps hoped, she described the period before she wrote fiction for a living. Afterward I walked away with a distinct feeling that I didn’t want to be that writer. What does it profit someone if they gain a contract and a NYT bestseller slot and lose their soul/family’s love/sense of perspective–not to mention sleep?

On the other hand–there’s a wonderful writer in our local group who has rather more than one child, and who really DOES have to squeeze in bits of writing at odd hours to make it happen. Her rate of production is much lower than she likes (or so I infer), which is a shame, because she puts out some great stuff. But she keeps at it, and reminds me in doing so how I have nothing to complain about.

The most important thing about the writing life is that there is no single “writing life.” When someone, with helpful intent, tells you of something you must do or must avoid, accept their advice with grateful skepticism. There might be a statistically most likely path to publishing, but one suspects the curve is not tight, and the outliers outnumber those within the normal distribution. But everyone who gets their stuff out there does have one thing in common–they keep at it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to contemplate legal arguments done up in verse. Seemed like a good idea at the time…

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