Recurring theme – someone asked me a question the other day: What are you working on now? I just stared. With a definite uncomfortable squirm in my chair, I responded, “Nothing.”
In another era, I wanted to be one of those women who had specific days when they did household tasks. You know the type – geez, you might be the type! Bathrooms on Monday, floors on Tuesday, dusting on Wednesday. I was more the madly try to clean up everything on the same day because company was coming woman. I could be seen running around in a state, dusting with one hand and pushing a wet rag with my foot over the dirty floor. Hoping for the best – cleaning with a lick and prayer, so to speak.
When I’m confronted with the question of what I’m currently working on and the answer is – nothing – I get a similar feeling. I want to be one of those writers who writes consistently. Like Stephen Leacock out in his boathouse every single day from eight until noon without fail. But I’m not. I’m the write until I drop and then fall into the doldrums believing that I will never write again type.
At the beginning of my master’s program, I read a book about writing your thesis or dissertation in fifteen minutes a day. It sounded wise but it was something I knew in my heart I could never accomplish.
My grandma used to say – You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. There is truth to the belief that one thing can’t be another no matter the effort put into transformation. I can no more write on a consistent and specific daily schedule than I could clean that way or create a dissertation in fifteen-minute blocks. It simply isn’t me.
When I’m not feeling uncomfortable with this state of affairs, I celebrate it. This is the fallow time. This is the gathering time. This is the time when impressions, ideas and connections incubate and grow until they burst forth in writing fury.
But there is still a part of me that feels like the sow’s ear and not the silk purse. What do you think? How do you manage your writing? Is it a daily, disciplined endeavour or is it an all out writing fury? And let me know how your garden is growing? Ours is doing not too bad
I write a lot, as often as I can. Housework suffers. Fortunately I have a husband who comes to the rescue if supper needs making or laundry needs doing. I have a couple of volunteer activities that get precedence over writing a few times a week. Here I am grateful to 37 years of work where I learned to juggle many projects and never ( well hardly ever) panic. Going for drives with my husband … these take precedence over writing, but even then I am going over plot and characters with him during a lot of the drive ( poor him!). I should say that the creative part of writing takes a back seat to editing and daemon marketing in terms of time.
Thanks for explaining such a balanced approach to writing, Jane. I laughed when you described going over plot and characters with your husband. I do the same. We talk of the Crater Lake characters like they are old friends and family. And yes – marketing is not as fun as creating.
I try to write in the morning … when I can. Today I had a doctor’s app’t. that took a long time. I ate a snack and delayed lunch. Then I wrote for a while, revised a couple of pages and wrote notes for tomorrow. On my afternoon walk, I got some ideas for how to proceed tomorrow. First I have to go to the dentist, though. Getting older (I’m 74) means everything takes longer. I’m easy on myself.
I love the common theme of inspiration coming during the act of walking. This happens to me a lot. I also like to have an idea of the direction I’ll be going for the next day of writing. I often end up thinking things through right before falling asleep. Waking to a new idea is always a treat.
I am certainly not a 15 min a day person if I have to write something. I am not a writer so I am talking about letters, essays, blog posts etc.
The all or nothing can be draining but sometimes you can’t fight the muse. She comes and goes on a schedule not of my making.
Writing includes the fallow times, the inspired times, the thinking while you do the ironing times (do not burn the clothes though!) and the times when one is lucky enough to write 1,000 words straight off in an hour. It has no rules and regulations (here). I am personally against making rules, especially advising rules to others! Either one is a writer, with one’s own style , or one will never be one however much one tries to do however many words per day, and start each day with 10, 15, or 20 minutes of writing … Not that I feel like a writer, I feel more like a painter (which I also am, and feel more in tune with, as I’ve done it longer!)
Finding the confidence to believe in our own process … there is the rub as Shakespeare would say. I do feel like a writer but I find it hard to believe I’ve written four books. How is that for a dichotomy?
Boy, can I relate! I think like all things in life; we have our ups and downs. Summer is always a difficult time to dedicate a specified time to write, and then, they’re those curves life throws at us. I’ve tried to release the compulsion or inner demand to write every day, but the nagging leaves me feeling much like you. Cheer up; you’re not alone.
That nagging feeling – in the fallow times, it hits me when I rest on my head to sleep or when I’m in the middle of doing something. I find myself wondering about the characters and where they’re going next. I feel them clamouring for attention just outside of my perceptions. Thanks for the wishes of cheer 🙂
Good question. No real pattern. Like you, Fran, I’m not writing at present. I think I might even be done with writing. I do need something else to fill the space though. (If I had a garden it would be lightly managed to encourage wild flowers and insects.)
I love that kind of lightly managed garden. One has to guard vigilantly against over management. I think that is a similar theme in writing. I’ve always had this five to seven year cycle thing going. I do something for about that length of time and then get antsy to move on. I’ve passed that mark with fiction writing and still feel pretty up about doing more. We’ll see.
I liked the term “fallow time” in an above comment. Don’t we all need that from time to time? Right now that’s where I am as well. Fallow – in the sense of resting, inactive or dormant – but not in the sense of being empty or bare. I have lots of writing/editing projects sitting fallow for the time being. As I “rest” I’m finding time for reading a lot more than I have in recent years. Guess you can say it is a time for refueling. Let’s enjoy it while we can! The writing bug will probably be upon us in its own good time.
Totally agree – that resting time, refueling is so important. Whenever I am not writing, I am reading voraciously. Reading is to me enjoyment, refueling, refreshment and writer’s university. After all, writing is somewhat of an apprenticeship craft. I am always learning. Yes indeed – the bug is waiting in the wings. I’m all for enjoying things as they come.