Writing in a Tsunami
When I was younger, before I had a husband or kids or a mortgage, I had many restrictions on writing. What time of day was appropriate, among countless other conditions. Before I was married, had two kids, and got swallowed by my house, how many works of fiction do you think I published? Zero. Zilch. Nada.
I make my living as a copywriter and ghostwriter of nonfiction and, more recently, fiction. So, yes, I published more than thirty works of nonfiction before I turned thirty-five, but for some reason, I could never get the fiction out. I had the “ideas,” I just never met the specific, ridiculous, “ideals” I set up for myself to actually do this fiction writing:
* at night, but not too late
* only Tuesday through Thursday (need to party all weekend, and then recover!)
* need to write on a clear head (see above)
* but also need to do some considerable drinking of wine to get the words to flow…
* need absolute quiet
There were about 20 others, but you get the idea. If I could not write in the ideal situation, I could not write. That cost me about fifteen years.
I finally came to realize that I was never happier than when I ran dialog and plot lines in my head, and I knew I had to get them out of me. But how could I possibly have time to write–with a job and a freelance business and a house and two small kids to take care of? I had to make the time. If it meant waking up at 4am or scratching out notes while I waited for the kids at the bus stop, I had to find those stolen moments, because in them was my whole reason for being. (I wrote so much of The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything longhand at the bus stop, and sometimes could even be found with my laptop smushed between me and the steering wheel. True story.)
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me–that I’m some super over-achiever. I’m not. I’m actually quite lazy. (Really, you should see my house.) But I came to realize that if I wanted to be a writer, if I really wanted to be a writer, I had to force it into my life.
Now, when people ask me about my writing process, I can honestly say it’s like writing in a tsunami. There are always kids swirling around–my daughters and their friends. And debris. Lots of debris. There are a million tasks that can’t be put off every day (plus a million others I ignore). My writing environment is noisy and sort of dirty. But all the restrictions are lifted now. And now that I know there are no ideal conditions for writing, I’ve been writing my face off–I’m shooting to release three novels in 2014! Why not?
All I’m saying is if I can do it, you can do it. When you really want to do it, you will. Just remember:
- There is no such thing as an “ideal” time to write. Let writing come when it comes. Don’t give it restrictions; it will resent you. Embrace it. Let it climb into your lap whenever it needs a cuddle. It will reward you.
- Keep prepared. Carry a pad and pen with you at all times. If you wake up in the night with an idea, sit up and scribble it down. Don’t be lazy. If you get an idea in the shower, step out of the shower, drip over to the sink or toilet or wherever that pen and pad is and jot it down. (Note: Ballpoint pens are your best bet in this situation.)
- Your muse does not judge you. Your muse is not a fussy houseguest. Your muse wants to hang out with you in your PJs in your messy living room and drink wine and watch Lifetime TV with you and giggle with you. If you view your muse more like your pal and less like your mother-in-law*, you’re going to have a much more relaxed relationship.
- It’s now or never. You can spend your whole life talking yourself out of writing. I meet people like this every day. I nod at the excuses of why they’d love to but just don’t have the time. I hope some day, like me, maybe they’ll see that they do. Life is short. If you have dreams, live them. If you want to be a writer, write.
* Just for the record, I use this “mother-in-law” thing as a broad-stroke, sort of cliched example. I have an awesome mother-in-law. (But I still clean for her. Not really for any one else.)