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Out of the Jar
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« on: May 20, 2011, 11:51:57 AM »

Jack Torrance: Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you're breaking my concentration. You're distracting me. And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. You understand?
Wendy Torrance: Yeah.
Jack Torrance: Now, we're going to make a new rule. When you come in here and you hear me typing
[types]
Jack Torrance: or whether you DON'T hear me typing, or whatever the FUCK you hear me doing; when I'm in here, it means that I am working, THAT means don't come in. Now, do you think you can handle that?
Wendy Torrance: Yeah.
Jack Torrance: Good. Now why don't you start right now and get the fuck out of here? Hm?
-From Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980)

Concentration.  That's the trick isn't it.  Most of us writers have, at some point or other, imagined the perfect writing environment: a secluded spot with all our favorite books, and writing materials, and no one to bother us for hours at a time.  Not many of us, however, here in the fucking real world, have much time of this sort (I've heard a rumor it doesn't even exist!); unless, of course, you are able to support yourself financially with your writing, or happen to have a trust fund or inheritance or a rich husband/wife (or you happen to stumble upon a Van Gogh in your basement or some pirate gold), you probably have a job that takes up most of your time.  And you might have a husband/wife who is as equally bereft of financial security as you are, and perhaps kids, and perhaps a lot of other things going on in your life.  All these things make it very difficult for us writers to do what we really want to do and do it well; we want to write, but how can we with all these distractions?

Okay, so I wrote a blog about this (You can find it in my website.  Shameless, I know), but I'm curious how you guys find time to write and what your writing habits are?

KeithDeininger.com
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"The surreal is as integral a part of our lives as the 'real,' although one might argue that, since the unconscious underlies consciousness... it is in fact more primary than the 'real.'"
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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2011, 07:10:33 PM »

Interesting post. While full time teaching I managed to write two novels in the evenings, after the kids and wife had gone to bed and after marking and preparing the next day's lessons. It helped that I got by on 4 hours sleep. I recently learnt that when in training the SAS and US special forces only get 4 hours sleep too, so I was in good company.
Then I had to early retire because of a hearing prob. Great! Full teacher's pension enabling me to ride my bike and write. Except that I don't write much more than I used to. Why? Because wife suddenly stopped doing any housework including cooking. She has a part time job but my writing can't be considered serious since I only earn enough to pay for maybe one holiday a year out of it. So, I'm expected to do all the housework, shopping and cooking that we used to do together. Result, I do some writing, cycling, hiking and the house is a mess - haha. Often I feel like renting office space, preferably with a seductive secretary thrown it, but it's unrealistic.

I'm back to writing in the evenings, mostly after the wife has gone to bed.

Geoff
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2011, 09:07:16 PM »

Time has been very cruel and we're even past April--I can understand Geoff's comments about it being difficult to write while teaching...I usually get the bulk of my writing and reading done during about a two month window in the summer and try to spend the school year with just editing.  Doesn't always work out that way.  Even when you have time off from work it's not necessarily easy to get the time necessary to write.  I've read several dozen accounts of how some would sacrifice sleep or somehow pen out a couple thousand words a day just during the little off-moments they get...still can't wrap my brain around that...

I was hoping to dedicate this summer to getting the first draft of the novel done, but as always there are always other people who have plans for me.  I just got a promotion at the school (I've become the English Chair for several of our schools [we have several campuses] and will need to spend most of the summer creating new curriculum and coordinating it with other programs through out the different schools.)  Not complaining, far from it...I'm honored to get the position...

Even if the work schedule clears up, it's still hard to balance all those things that happen in the day that you don't want to miss out on...there is no way I would ever say, "Sorry honey, I'm writing.  You'll have to go for the walk on your own."

You mention the so called perfect writing corner...for me it would be the extra two hours added to the day...
« Last Edit: May 22, 2011, 09:09:02 PM by jsorensen » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2011, 10:09:43 PM »

My lunch hour at work.  That's pretty much it.  There's no internet connectivity there, so no distractions, no email, no wasting time online, nothing but the laptop.  It's a habit I got into about four years ago when I wrote my first book, and it's still the best time for me to write.
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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2011, 10:31:17 PM »

For me, when the stars aligned, I took a shot at what I wanted to do most. That was to share stories. And, I know my crafting of a sentence leaves a little to be desired. I can admit that much. But, I have many fun stories to tell--some with a lot of truth.

When I decided to take this on full-time, I was a little wet behind the ears for sure. I had no idea how much was involved with constructing a story, and seeing it through to print. I had no idea how much time and effort I would have to put towards learning how to excel in telling tales. But, possibly the most important things I learned is...

1) You have to decide why you are writing. For me, it is all about telling a story and trying to make it believable enough that my readers get a kick out of it.

Much of what I have learned, has come at the aid of many fine authors--many of them right here. And, I thank you all for that. I work hard at improving every day, take classes on it, study, practice. I end up doing that more than anything I think. Aside from my gushy prose here though, I wanted to share the video, but can't seem to find it...and it is very good. Perhaps, if you can find it you all may enjoy it as well. But, from that interview with Joe Hill, he essentially said...

2) If you choose to do it full-time, then you have to treat it like a job, day in and day out.

Truly though, as I have started talking to the dogs to keep myself entertained, I am on the verge of insanity. If you hear me say they are talking back, please call the white coats to take me away.  Cheesy
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« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2011, 10:36:38 PM »

If I find I'm realy into a project, then waking up an hour or two early is not only not a problem, but something I look forward to. However, if I'm feeling frustrated and unsure (which is most of the time) then I don't get much down. Regular writing hours are a fairy tale to me. Sometimes, like waves, inspiration rolls across me, and then I go with it as best I can. But all that that usually results in is uncovering small parts of larger stories I "someday" intend to tell.

In the magazine The Writer, Harlan Coben said:

“If you can’t find the time to write, that’s just nonsense. My friend Mary Higgins Clark had five kids and was widowed—that’s a woman who had no time to write. And she still used to wake up and write and then get the kids up. There’s always time to write. You can skip the TV show you’re watching, you can wake up an hour earlier, you can write during lunch—you always have time to write. If your life is so full of other things that you don’t have time to write, then writing isn’t a priority and you’re not a writer. There’s nothing wrong with that, but face that fact. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to write.”

I think priority is a huge part of it, and often writing is my last priority, which is why my output is so meager. Speaking of Mary Higgins Clark being a widow with five children and still finding time to write, I really am amazed. My mother was a single parent, raising five boys, and she didn’t have time to really even be a mother, let alone try and do something personal and creative.

Perhaps I need to reevaluate my priorities… or just get re-inspired… or neglect my children… who knows?
« Last Edit: May 22, 2011, 11:02:23 PM by elay2433 » Logged

Jerry Enni lives in a small house in the center of the San Joaquin Valley with his beautiful family. By day he makes signs and by night he writes stories. To learn more about him, check out Clear Perspective, Blurry Lens
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« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2011, 12:45:32 AM »

I guess I'm just not a writer. I've got the time, but something is missing in the motivation/desire/inspiration department. When I'm into a project, a lot of time goes into research so that what comes out sounds believable. But mostly I fritter away my time because of some feeling that it's going to be crap, anyway, so why bother?

This year the Whittaker judges are particularly harsh in their scoring. Last year, my lowest score (for a story that I knew had several problems) was a 62. This year (so far), my lowest score was a 44 in Round Two, for a story I was quite proud of and which did reasonably well in this month's critique group. I admit that low score sapped some of my enthusiasm and I didn't have enough motivation to complete my Round Three story by the deadline, so I submitted a story that had scored well (90) last year. It garnered a whopping 49 points this year. We just submitted our Round Five stories, and I have little interest in writing anything for Round Six... I'm a competitive person, and was looking forward to doing better this year than last year. When it became clear that wasn't going to happen, a lot of my interest evaporated.

For me, having time is the same thing as being motivated: when I'm motivated, I don't (usually) have trouble finding the time.
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« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2011, 03:01:12 AM »

OOTJ: I'm an early riser, so I get writingrelated stuff done before I start work, a little at lunch time, and my wife is addicted to evening soaps, so I fell little guilt about disappearing upstairs for an hour or so. That we have no kids probably helps me a great deal.

Pharosian: I have no idea who these Whittaker judges are, but why give a shit what they say when the best indicator of the worth of what you write is if someone will PUBLISH IT, if someone will subsequently READ IT, and if either group will actually PAY FOR IT. Maybe you are trying to impress the wrong people and are overly concerned with scores? I've had stuff here with 70 average placed in mags and anthos (satisfying point one, but unfortunately, not point three  Wink )
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« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2011, 03:31:54 AM »

I've read many professional writers say the same thing as Harlen Coben says, and I think there's something in it. Which, alas, pretty much means I'm not a writer.

I've discovered a pattern over the last few years which is that when I'm on leave from work I can write every day, one or two thousand words a day, thoroughly enjoy it, make decent progress, and - hopefully - tell some good tales. I can do this whilst still doing all the other things required to keep a household going.

Alas, when I'm at work (which is most of the time) I've discovered that it's very difficult to do any writing. It's not so much a time thing, or rather it's not just a time thing, as a mental energy thing. Years ago, I could write and work, these days I can't. Does mental energy fade as one gets older? Or is work getting more intense and pressurised? I suspect it's a bit of both. I'm certainly working longer hours than I ever have in my life. I often get up an hour early, not to write, but to try and get a bit of extra work done. I generally work (not write) in the evenings, and some weekends, too. I can't quit watching the TV to make time for writing as I don't have time to watch TV. I suspect were I a "real writer" I'd quit this job and find something that offers me a little more free time and isn't so psychologically draining. But we live to our means (or usually just a little beyond) so financially that isn't an option (unless, of course, I was a real writer...).

I wonder if, when I retire many years hence, and I have more free time whether I will then take advantage of that free time to write more. I hope so. But who know? The world may well have changed a lot by then. Or maybe I'll be worn out and just want to go fishing, cycling, and catch up on all these books I currently haven't time to read, and all these DVD boxsets I don't have time to watch.

Oz, do I infer correctly from what you wrote below:

Quote
For me, when the stars aligned, I took a shot at what I wanted to do most. That was to share stories. And, I know my crafting of a sentence leaves a little to be desired. I can admit that much. But, I have many fun stories to tell--some with a lot of truth.

When I decided to take this on full-time

that you're doing this full time? If so, well done! I'm a huge jazz fan, and one story that is very common with almost all of the major artists is that at some point in their lives they ensured their life-styles enabled them to practice upwards of ten hours a day, for several years on end. At the time when they were doing this many were not making much money out of music, so they had to make sacrifices and/or be supported by partners in order to build the skills they eventually built careers on. I guess it's this sort of attitude that real writers need to have, and I'm probably a little too risk averse.

Kind regards,
Derek
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« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2011, 08:06:33 AM »

I am.  Cheesy

We had some good fortune that allowed me to shed my job of 20 or so years. I had gone so far up the ladder, that I spent more time yelling at my employees than doing anything I had intended to do whilst I was in college. It got to the point that every day I drove into work I could feel my heart starting to tense up. And by the time I got home I couldn't sleep because of that pressure in my chest. Some say the area of Graphic Design I was in, has the highest rate of heart attacks. I'm not sure, but after I left one guy did. It was definitely the most stressful job I have ever had, and being a boss just made it worse.

So every day I work at writing full-time. I haven't really written a lick between college and my 40th, so its a lot of catching up to do. I have pretty good confidence in my story lines and concepts, but I work tirelessly to improve my writing. Now days it seems I spend more time editing and researching, than I do writing.

However, all of that being said...I often wish I had a part-time job. I miss being around people. But I do love the ability to be creative again, without a boss hovering over me like a vulture waiting for me to screw up. And, I occasionally supplement my salary by doing some design work. You can see some of the more recent things I have done on my website, including some cover artwork. If I could ever attain that level that you describe of people that practice so often, then it would be well worth it, as I am truly happiest spinning a yarn.
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« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2011, 09:08:43 AM »

I have tons of time and opportunity to write, but don't write that much because I don't take my writing all that seriously. It's something I do that brings in a bit of cash now and again and which I often enjoy, but that's as far as it goes. I'd always sooner be drawing than writing, but I'd go cross-eyed if I just did the drawing.
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« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2011, 12:52:45 PM »

Elay, Pharo and Del--I don’t like to hear things like ‘I’m not a writer’. You are writers. Period. You’ve spent too much time, have written too much, and produced admirable material--you’ve earned it. Don’t get down on yourselves because you’ve had a bad spell lately, or because you still have things to learn. (I’m just coming out of a month long slump, and have been telling myself this.) FOR GOD’S SAKE, PEOPLE CALL DAVID EDDINGS A WRITER!!! (No offense meant towards any fans of his here. To each his own, etc. etc.)

Yes, you are going to find the time to write, if you are a writer. But do you have to write constantly to be a ‘writer’? I can’t believe it always works that way. Life is just too complicated, and day-to-day life is too different for each person.

Harper Lee wrote ONE book. Is she not a writer? If you retire, do you cease to be a writer?

Christopher Paolini (Author of Eragon) is one of the writers who says to be a writer you have to write everyday. (I’ve read that from others, but he’s the only name I can remember.) I think it’s crap that you have to write EVERYDAY to be a ‘writer’. Does it help? Hell, yes! (I thought Paolini’s last book was formulaic, so you can write professionally and still come up with poor material.)

Mary Higgins Clark may have written everyday--she may be superwoman, for all I know--but I find it hard to believe there weren’t days when she turned around from all the things required by a single parent and fell into bed, exhausted. The same with JK Rowling. If you have sick kids, at some point, you are going to have to take time off--writer or no. Even though I don’t have kids, I know there are days where events just eat up my emotional energy, and I can’t get the motor started. People who say otherwise are puffing themselves up, and speaking in hard absolutes that don’t work into real life. And they should count their blessings.

Personally, I struggle against interruptions, periodic lack of motivation, basic anxiety, and the fact that if I don’t get AT LEAST seven hours of sleep, I’m a zombie the next day. I am rarely functional past ten at night. My ideas are slow to condense, as well--though I think about my novel, its characters, everyday. I hope that I will get faster as time goes on, but I think everyone works at their own pace, and handles life their own way.

Pharo--You can’t please everyone. Your story is a good one, and you shouldn’t get down on yourself. (You know, one of these days I’m going to have to take my own advice. rolleyes )

Del--Do you like your job? Do you need the salary for what you are responsible for? Could you get another one that covered your expenses and possible emergency funds? I think a person has to take those things into account. Stephen King worked as a teacher in a job that sucked most of his creative energy, even after Carrie was published, because he had a family to support. Was he not a ‘writer’? (And as much as I love some of his work, he’s got some iffy books out there.)

(In case you didn’t notice, I get very agitated when people try to define what being a writer is for everyone. pissed )

Geoff, don’t you think the secretary would be even more distracting than housework? scratch

smiley
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« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2011, 01:04:14 PM »

Seriously, you all shouldn't get down on yourselves at all. Not that I am anyone important, but I think you all are fantastic writers. And as I have said before, I have learned so much from you all. Just always remember why you write though....because you love to do so. Not everyone is going to like everything you do. Thats just the way life works. And even though you are likely going to be your own worst critic, you have to love what you are doing.

And for those wondering...yes, I do the laundry, dishes, trash,cleaning, etc too LOL. Some of it I loathe, but I have a nice groove. When I am on the ball I can pump out over 10k words a day. I tend to get 2-4k on average. It takes me a lot longer now days to edit, because I find myself searching harder. I might get through 10-20 pages a day of editing.

Research is a biggie. But I always find the time for all of it. And this summer reading thing I am doing, I am considering making a permanent thing. I have some great books lined up, and a couple of nice interviews. I honestly think you get back from this the effort you put in. That is why I work so hard at it, and why I enjoy being flogged by my work. The harder people are on me about my writing, the better off I am in the long run.

But of all the people I know on here, I have read their work and it is just awesome!!! Especially lately I have really enjoyed some of the pieces. Don't let someone else's opinion get you down. Just write! (I stole that a little from Nike, so don't tell them).  dance
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« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2011, 01:22:49 PM »

Thanks for such detailed replies everyone!  For me, writing is kind of like an obsession; I think about it a lot, but I'm so busy that I have to "sneak" (at least that's what it feels like) time here and there.  I write during my lunch breaks and at work when I can; I also write in the evenings, stuff like that.  In order for me to write anything half-way descent this way, I've had to learn how to block out the world and write in short spurts.  I find time to write no matter what because I really enjoy expressing the ideas in my head - sometimes you just gotta' get 'em out.  For me, writing is about having an outlet for the imagination. 

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« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2011, 01:28:22 PM »

I think it's also important to remember that you don't have to write every freakin' day in order to "be a writer."  You're a writer if you write.  That's it.  Just write - once a week, one or two stories a year; if you do that you are a writer.  You don't have to be like Stephen King; you don't have to be a machine and write 8 hours every day even on holidays and Christmas! 

The important thing is that we write and that we like to share what we write with others, whether we make money doing it or not.  Money is insubstantial, it's nothing; self-expression is everything!
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"The surreal is as integral a part of our lives as the 'real,' although one might argue that, since the unconscious underlies consciousness... it is in fact more primary than the 'real.'"
Joyce Carol Oates
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