I’m currently reading Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland, my very first writing teacher. It’s brought me back in time a little. I took my first writing class in the second half of my senior year, a little over 20 years ago. That’s what shifted my career path from engineer to writer.
Although I’ve been writing since that day, I don’t think I was dead serious about it until about 5 years ago. That’s when I discovered I was a genre writer, and specifically, writing for teens and tweens. When I write has changed dramatically. Mostly due to the arrival of my daughter, Lilly.
My wife sleeps in a little later than I do (or did, pre Lilly). So I used to write in the mornings, from 7:00 till about 10:00. I’ve never been an all day writer. Instead, I work in the chunks of time available to me. Once Lilly was born I didn’t think I’d ever be able to fit in writing time. But that’s what I was going to have to do if I wanted the novel finished. Attach ass to seat and let simmer for at least one hour.
I think an hour is the bare minimum time. Sometimes I can get a tremendous amount written in just 45 minutes, but I prefer one to two hours. That’s why I don’t write in the morning now. I could still wake up at 5:00 and get some writing done this way on the weekends, but I like having the end time open-ended. In other words, if I want to keep on writing, I don’t want anything stopping me. So now I switched to evenings. I usually go up around 9:00 and write until 11:00. Sometimes longer. This works for me. When I’m really going, I can get 3-4 pages done in this time.
Recently I went to see a friend sing at Lestat’s coffee house. There was a multitude of people there with laptops, writing and chatting. I wondered, how many of them were there to write versus be “see” writing. I was one of those once. I felt I could only write in a coffee house with a legal pad and a steaming cup of joe. Truth was, it was more of an ego thing. Now I can’t imagine writing anywhere else than a quiet room. My attitude has shifted. Now I want to produce the pages rather than “look” like a writer.
I once read, in Writer’s Digest I believe, about a writer who balanced three kids, a part time job, and keeping up the house. She had only a month to revise her story for an agent. She got it done. Because that’s what writers do. They make the time. The book isn’t going to write itself.
There are plenty of people out there who say they want to be a writer or are going to write a book. Until you glue yourself to a computer keyboard or a legal pad, you’re nothing more than a poser. I think Susan Vreeland once asked us in class why we wanted to write. My answer took a while, but once it came, it was obvious. I write because I have to. It’s who I am and nothing relaxes me more.