Saturday, July 12, 2008

Time for Writing

I spent the better part of the day today on conference calls for work with our customer in Detroit. This after working a 60 hour week. I got out of the calls already exhausted for the day. Later, I was looking at Eric James Stone's blog. On the blog, he has a video of an interview he gave for iSCIFI TV. While in and of itself an interesting discussion with Eric, (who I know from Codex and met at the 2006 Nebula awards), an off the cuff comment from the interviewer caught my attention.

The interviewer commented that writing takes a lot of time. That got me thinking. When I'm rolling, I can pump out 1000 words an hour or better. David Gerrold told me that he occasionally hits that pace and called it exhausting. For me, I have to be totally focused on the story and be distraction-free. But that's digressing. The topic here was on writing time.

Now, those of you who know me also know that between work, the kids, and my wife's mother, I have a hectic life. Some of my fellow writers are amazed that I can write at all. Truth is, sometimes I can't. When I'm working long hours, it's very difficult for me to get started. Once I get started I can get into it, but often I just start getting heavy eyelids. I pretty much always write with a tired mind and a tired body. I'm surprised I've managed to achieve any kind of success at all with the baggage I have to carry. I makes me wonder what I could produce if I could regularly write while fresh and rested, with significant time to read for pleasure and research.

Of course, excuses don't matter. The readers don't care, nor do editors. I'm still in competition with every other writer submitting to the same markets. The work has to stand on its own, and that's why I'm surprised I've sold as many stories as I have. They are written under less than ideal conditions.

But then, everyone has the proverbial cross to bear. I don't know how my situation compares with other writers. Surely there must be others writing in sub-prime conditions. Speaking of, I should get to that novel in progress.


^JR^ said...

Good Post.

I have been very fortunate in the last few weeks with regards to writing time and distraction. My new position at work as a computer operator has about as much total free time for me to write as I had trying to write at home on a daily basis...just short of two hours. There are a couple of spans of about 45 mins each where the system is doing its thing, and all I have to do is monitor it.

I just set the ol' laptop next to my terminal and go to town. Its third shift, also, so its just me and the hum of the servers--no distractions. Consequently, my production is now steady at about a thousand words a night, 5 nights a week.

Are these ideal conditions? For me, almost. Sometimes I haven't gotten as much sleep as I needed before I come in to work which makes it difficult at times. Sometimes one of the programmers will set an unscheduled job to run that fights with the regular ones and that throws things off.

I guess one could say totally "ideal" conditions don't really exist. If one could write every single day with no distraction, no hinderance, and totally unfettered by life, than I would think that the writing would probably be pretty boring and uninteresting to the reader.

I think daily life struggles help give voice to the writing, making it vivid and interesting. Try imagining the best book you've ever read or heard about being read in a flat, monotone fashion--say, by Ben Stein as we saw him in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It's probably not going to capture the readers imagination for very long.

That's what I think, anyway.

I see that progress bar moving again. Good Job!


Rick Novy said...

For sure life experience is raw material for fiction. No question about that. And I suppose I would be just as busy if I were writing full time as I am now, but I think my heart would be in my work a bit more. After all, writing is a very personal process. Pride of ownership should be there for everything written.