Writing junkie

So Clayton and I had a “sit down” the other night about how much time I’ve been spending writing. To put this in perspective, we have from approx. 5pm to bedtime (around 9:30 b/c we’re prematurely old) to spend time together. However, this time is often taken up with things like dinner, barn time (for me), outings with friends, computer programming (for him), and a few regularly-scheduled engagements throughout the week. Weekends are for cleaning, working on the car, and arguing about how much I try to squirrel out of cleaning—(I won’t deny that I do it b/c I think it’s important to be up front about your laziness). So, when I started adding writing time in the evenings back in January, I tried to stick to a schedule of writing every night for only an hour (in one sitting), with no more than a 3 hr. slot each weekend day. He agreed to this, at the time just glad that I was now writing on a regular basis and not just bitching about not writing. (Because I’m VERY good at that, too. I’ve had a lot of practice.)

So when Clayton presented that we weren’t spending enough time together b/c of my writing, I was all, “What’s the problem? We agreed on an hour a night.” And he got a deadpan face and was like, “Do you REALLY think it’s just been an hour every night?”

Apparently, I’ve not been paying attention to the clock. During his side of the debate, in his closing remarks for the round, he described me using much the same terminology as people associate with sports athletes, which surprised me: being “in the zone,” having writing “highlights,” and “getting off track.” When he mentioned that it seemed like I was “in another world,” I broke in and reminded him that I WAS. I’m a writer—I create other worlds in my stories. Or, at the very least, I was in that particular scene at the time, and not paying attention to anything else.

This actually caught my attention, because I knew that writers did this but I didn’t realize how deep into my stories I’d been. I’ve known that other writers seem to go “somewhere else” when they write, and I can usually recognize when I “come back,” that sense of returning from somewhere that wasn’t your living room. But I didn’t realize that I was getting so into my stories lately that three and four hours were passing where I was so completely immersed that he’d walk into the room and I didn’t even realize it until he kissed me on the head or put his hand over my computer screen. (And I never admit this to him, but just about every time he does that, the first thought that runs through my brain isn’t, “Oh, there’s Clayton, trying to get my attention.” It’s more like, “HOW DID HE DO THAT?!” b/c it seems like he suddenly appears out of nowhere. It’s like I’m married to a magician, only without the bunnies.)

And I found myself trying to renegotiate with him like an addict faced with an intervention. “C’mon, just one more hour,” “I can stop whenever I want to, but the story’s just so interesting, you don’t understand!” and “I’m sure I wasn’t out THAT long…I just lost track of time, no big deal.”

So, I had a reality check to the fact that I’ve been checking out a bit longer than usual and decided to try and fix this. The last few days, I’ve done this not by reducing my writing time, but by changing the time of day that I write. I’m a night writer by habit, b/c I always seem to get my best writing done then and b/c the kind of dark ideas that I favor. But, because the faucet of ideas is still leaking as steadily as ever, I’ve had to find a new timeframe, so I’ve been writing on my lunch breaks every afternoon. It feels like sneaking since I’m leaving my job (that I like well enough) to go do something that I LOVE, even though I’m doing it in a restaurant or in an empty area of a parking lot while I shovel a burrito or salad in my face, trying not to get salsa on the pages of my notebook. Then, when I get home, I don’t have a problem sticking to the hour time limit we agreed upon.

Now, let me be clear that I’m not telling you all this to vent about an argument I had with my husband, b/c it wasn’t really an argument as much as it was a chat. And I’m not trying to paint him as a bad guy just b/c he asked me to stick to the conditions of our agreement. That’s not what I want this blog to be about. I guess I’m telling you this in case you do it, too; in case you have that fever that feels like an obsession that’s intense enough that doing other things (like work, school, anything that isn’t writing that story) seems REALLY annoying, even if you love doing those other things.

I think there are tons of writing books out there that talk about how to go about your craft ON PAPER. But few of them, even the writer’s biographies that tend to shed more light on the process than anything else, seem to talk about the daily time management of it. I mostly read about how writers admit they write in large chunks of time, either in the morning or the evening. And I know that’s good b/c then you have enough time to keep the creative flow going when you get “in the zone.” But that covers months, years even, of time, and not how they managed it in the day-by-day. I’ve found that writing in large chunks of time, when you can get it, rocks. But when you don’t, I find it really helpful to take what time I DO have, even if it’s just a half hour, and feed the obsession, get the fix.

Most Highly Respected Anonymous Writers out there: what are your thoughts on the process? I’d be really interested to read your comments about it. What are your writing habits? Do you find yourself with the same junkie itch to always have a pen in your hands, and if so, how do you handle it? Or does the idea of writing all the time seem strange to you, maybe too much of a good thing? Give me your feedback, ideas, or really good insults.

But no blonde jokes, please.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Writing junkie

  1. Tonya

    I suppose I am of two minds– the writer in me thinks– “How selfish that Clayton wants you to write less” while the me that’s been in a relationship completely understands his point. It’s a fine line, I think, between ignoring your craft to be with your partner (which I tend to do and then become miserable) and ignoring your partner for your craft. Luckily, he’s mature enough to have a chat with you and let you know how he feels. That’s good.

    But writing on the sly is nothing to be ashamed of. You fit it in where you can. And if you can stick to an hour at home while you do it on your lunch, that’s just good time management. You don’t say if Clayton takes any issue with that. I assume not since what bothers him is time away from you while you write.

    As for me, I write too little. Far too little. I don’t write fiction everyday anyway. I write letters, emails, journal entries almost every day– but not fiction. If I do, it’s mostly crap that I throw out. Nothing’s so disheartening as writing 100 pages as to realize none of it is really worth using. But when I write fiction when I feel the need to write fiction, it’s much better.

    As for my journal– I find the more I write in there, the more fiction I do write, the better mood I am to write fiction, the more ideas I have. And I often keep my journal in my lap while Tammy and I watch tv. Or sometimes, she’ll read. I can write fiction when she’s with me– not talking, mind you– but in the room reading or writing some of her own stuff for history so I think I’m blessed to be able to share that with her. If anything, she has to ask me to go write sometimes….

    I don’t think writing all the time seems strange at all. I might not be writing fiction, but I like to just sit and write about things– people I know, the weather, what’s going on in the world. Sometimes I just write word game things or bits of dialog I hear (I guess you’d call that eavesdropping and those are “conversations” but whatever!)

    Just keep writing. I don’t think you can write to much. You might have to make arrangements to do it differently, or at different times, but I don’t think writing 3 or 4 hours a day is excessive– not if you enjoy it. Don’t neglect Clayton, of course, but don’t not write either. You have nothing to feel guilty about!

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