“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” -Lawrence Kasdan
I stumbled upon this quote. It was probably tucked into some blog post or website as I conducted research on the bazillion things I need to learn about self-publishing. I think it’s funny, yet I also believe it to be true. Writing isn’t an easy task to accomplish, but it’s even more difficult to schedule. Many ‘real’ writers claim the need to write every day in an effort to be productive and hone their craft. After seeing this suggestion over and over (and over), I began to feel guilty. I wasn’t writing every day. Small confession: I’ve never been one to write every day. I’ve always been inconsistent. Over the past twelve years, I’d often write for months and then go an equal length of time (once even two years *gasp*) without jotting anything more than a grocery list. I should get a pass for the two years, though, because it was when I had my son and moved from the south back to the Midwest. Come to think of it, I’ve been the most productive in the past year and a half with the publishing of Still Life and The Choice Not Taken and now the final stages of Muse (a Still Life companion). In that same time period, I’ve also written another short novel (un-publishable at this point) and begun the first four chapters of another (young adult fiction this time).
But back to the writing every day. In my life, it has proven unrealistic. Seriously, how can I write on a weekend when I’m out of town celebrating my brother’s birthday with 20+ family members, helping unload and load a bedroom set for my sister, and drifting off from a wine/food coma? It isn’t going to happen, and I’ll tell you why. I want to enjoy life! And for me, part of enjoying life is ignoring the ‘homework’ that will always inevitably be ‘due’. Needless to say, I spent two entire days NOT writing, but in all honestly, I still thought about it. I even needed to jot a few character notes down so I didn’t forget them when it actually came time to get back to work.
I’ve finally come to the conclusion (yes, I’m a slow learner), that I need to keep going at my own pace rather than try to match what I believe is the standard. It hasn’t let me down yet, and it’s also given me a life with the people I care about and love. I seem to be one who works better this way, and I feel a certain closeness to the great artists who would likely be diagnosed as manic-depressive if they were to live in our present time. A common trend among now-famous painters, authors, and composers of centuries past was to create a great amount of work in a short time, then sink into a likely depression and do absolutely nothing. The romanticized image of an unkempt, unshowered, wild-eyed artist wasn’t too far from the truth. Let me make it clear: I am not, nor have I ever been, diagnosed as manic-depressive. However, I understand the need to create is often uncontrollable. Right now, I am driven to finish editing Muse so I can share it with others. At the same time, I feel haunted by characters of this next work in progress and don’t want to miss the opportunity to tell their story while it’s my head.
Rather than lock myself in a room for months and neglect my family (or basic grooming needs for that matter), I keep working towards a balance. I volunteer at my son’s school. I get together with family and close friends. I run errands, care for the home, and make dinner (most nights). I read books and bask in the moment I am given. Of course, in the midst of all that, I’m working out plots, characters, and scenery, and trying to come up with some really awesome dialogue…:-)