Thursday, July 2, 2015

What Clare Said

I especially liked the way she talked about writing being more than just typing words one after the other.

Writing for me is immersive. I need to set off into the story and spend time there without getting hooked back into the real world. I can do that twice a day if I start from somewhere calm. And if I keep the bottomless vat of monkeys that is the internet far far away from my writing times. Like this:

Email, breakfast, walk, journey to story, write, come back, email, lunch, walk, journey to story, write, come back, email, dinner, the rest of life, sleep. Repeat.

But I couldn't do it if  "the rest of life" - family, friends, hobbies, exercise, entertainment, social media - was mixed up in my day getting in the way of the excursions into the story. I don't understand how anyone can write with a Google alert on the same computer. I don't have any internet in my writing room. To waste time looking at kittens (and God knows I'm not judging; I love a kitten) I have to get up, walk into a different room and fire up a different machine. That's a lot of malice to forethink, when I know I should be writing.

And it gets harder if life isn't calm. I'm lucky enough not to have a day job and I share a house with just one other person who is out from eight until six. I don't have children or caring responsibilities and I live in the middle of nowhere with no near neighbours. This is why I don't go on writing retreats. They've always got too much hurly-burly and hoopla.

But occasionally life drops an anvil on you. Grief, illness, and injury have all managed to stop me writing when they come along. That's okay. They stop people doing other jobs too.

Even pleasant distractions like conventions, houseguests and monumental real-world news can knock me out of a story pretty efficiently. . . until I'm about forty thousand words in. After that a book is bullet-proof. It's as though the world of the book is more real and more powerful than the world outside and nothing in the world outside can compete.

(Victorious Golden State Warriors, in SF Pride march, after historic SCOTUS ruling,
during ALA, all of which couldn't break-ah my stride last weekend)
So . . . what's my advice for dealing with writer's block? Get off the internet except for a few check-ins a day separated from your writing time by something that clears your head of junk. Do all the other stuff (like writing this blog) in the evenings (separated from your writing time by sleep) and try to carve out a few really dead weeks to get your story bullet-proof before you combine it with travel and other distractions.

Some friends in the writing community are famous for writing all the time, wherever they are. Tim Hallinan and William Kent Krueger can both be seen at major conventions, sitting amongst hordes of revelers typing away in worlds of their own. I've never asked but if they can do that while they're writing early chapters then a deep curtsy to both of them.

1 comment:

Meredith Cole said...

This is so true, Catriona! I am in the middle of a house renovation--and even when I have an hour free I have a hard time clearing my mind enough to immerse myself in my story again... But I keep telling myself that soon the house will be done and I will be able to get back to my book.