28 September 2008

Back to the novel

The best way to write is to write a little every day. There are a thousand excuses we can find not to do this, and I have times where I seem able to exercise them all. But the hard truth is the writing flows best when we are at it every day -- it is then that the juice oozes. The words come easier, and the ideas zing.

I would like to say I'm capable of writing every day, and that I manage to achieve this, but it would be a lie. I invest a lot of time into my students -- into workshopping their work, into preparing classes -- and this year, teaching a new class (always a big time consumer), and this semester doing double my workload is really taking its toll. It leaves me thinking that next year I have to cut back my hours: after all, I'm a writer, and I want to write.

James N. Frey talks about this in his book How to write damn good fiction. One of his chapters is on the seven deadly mistakes a writer can make, and one of these is leading the wrong lifestyle. He tells of the advice he gave a would-be writer whose husband was an obstacle between her and the writer's lifestyle, and that was to get a new husband! While I do think that extreme, we do, in the end, have to decide on our priorities: what it is we want to achieve and what we're prepared to pay for that. There are no right and wrong answers -- only answers that suit you and your circumstances. What if your job is interfering with your writing? It's up to you to decide what to do. I've known people who have been in a position of having to choose and who have gone with their job. Sometimes, they've admitted to a great sense of relief on having made that decision. That's all right. They might come back to writing one day, and they might not. The world has enough writers; what it needs -- what we all need -- is more readers.

Think about it. The writing life is a hard one. There is little financial gain for most of us. After all, how many hairdressers can make a living out of hairdressing in this country? How many writers? Even of the best writers in the country, most have to supplement their income. And we're already talking only of those in the top echelon who get published. Much easier to be a hairdresser. Or bank-teller. Or anything really. It's a life full of rejection (unless you're one of a very elite few like Isobelle Carmody, who has never had a rejection letter), a life of harsh criticism and pulling yourself together and getting your work out there again and again and again.

But we have to do it.

We are driven.

And those who do give it up often come back to it. Writing is the nectar that feeds us.

Those struggling to find time, do find ways of carving out a niche here or there. Or don't.

I know when I'm not writing, I feel angry and frustrated. I am filled with self-loathing at my own patheticness. But when I finally unstopper that testube, then the creative potion fizzes up, a flood of it. In the meantime, I keep it ticking in my head. I think about my characters; I play out scenes in my imagination -- even scenes I've already written. I flesh out backstories, and sometimes, sometimes, I get fired up enough to find the time I need to write.

1 comment:

Sherryl said...

Hey, get fired up more often! Get determined more often. I know you often make the hard choice of family first. It'd be great if sometimes your family put you and your writing first. But that is something we all have to bear - that our nearest and dearest often just don't get it.