Friday, February 04, 2011

On Fire to Write

As I think about all my writing friends, I immediately recognize who is seriously working, who is seriously playing, and who is passing time. It doesn't matter who is retired, who is young or older, who has kids underfoot, or who has published before. None of that makes a difference when you have the fire in your gut.

I know a woman with three children at home - two in elementary school, another toddling and into things. She's written several novels. I adore reading her work. It's sharp, smart, and more than worthy of traditional publication. She's hell-bent on getting published. I believe she will.

I know another lady, with a pre-school child. She works fulltime and writes at night. She's read a zillion writing books and works hard at her craft. I just helped her query agents. She's hungry to make her dream happen, almost working the equivalent of a second job in the self-education she's doing to get there.

I know a gentleman old enough to be my father (I'd never tell him that). Computers do not come easy for him. He writes some of the most beautiful Southern literature, with dialogue to die for. But preparing manuscripts and query letters are his bane. So he took a class. He talks to computer people at Best Buy. He sends drafts to his serious writing friends to help him properly finalize. He's not at ease around technology (heck, he doesn't even carry a cell phone), but he's writing and fighting to publish every day.

I know others whose fire doesn't burn so hot, and you know them, too. Before you read their latest writing, they apologize for not having time to write, for having a job that takes their attention away, for getting distracted by relatives, for being too tired from everything else in their lives. They tend to say their writing is "on the back burner" for a few days, a week, a month. They love to write. They just aren't starving to publish.

Robin Parish posted recently on Freelance Writing Jobs, a great blog BTW, on how to work from home. Since most of us write where we live, that's where distractions take place. She had four suggestions:

1) Be rigid in your schedule.
2) "No" is not a bad word.
3) Work odd hours.
4) Get out of the house.

All are sound, for most people.

When it comes to being rigid, I believe in being flexible about being inflexible. As long as I get the hours in I need, I'm good. That might mean afternoon writing one day and middle of the night writing another. Of course, I'm not working around toddlers or the nine-to-five, although I once did both, which made me be even more flexible about being flexible. When I saw a moment to write, I grabbed it hungrily, greedily. I'd bite the hand of anyone trying to take it away.

"No" is a beautiful word. I've declined meetings, parties, even charitable invitations in order to get in my writing hours. Let's look at "no" from another angle. If you have/had a nine-to-five job, and someone asked you to step away from it (without pay) and do something else instead, would you say "no"? There's your barometer on saying no when you work at home.

Working the odd hours float my boat. Most people know I'm alive at night. Don't call me before ten AM. As others fade, I thrive, so this works for me. Lots of parents rise earlier than the clan or stay up later once they go to bed. Day job workers write during lunch and during the commute. Use your radar to snare those random hours. If you wait for a single chunk of time, it might not happen. You become a back-burner writer.

Get out of the house means you're telling people your writing is a priority. Assuming you can't get them to believe it when you are there. Fresh scenery is good for creativity, too.

I have always said that nobody takes your writing seriously until you do. If you carry around that fire, you scour your 24-hours for gaps to write. You might miss "House" on the television. You might let the clothes go unwashed for another few days. You might miss lunch with friends, and you might ask your spouse to take up the slack while you fine tune Chapter 12.

When others see you, they think "writer." They feel the need to ask, "How's the writing going?" And you tend to say you're all over it.


Christine Macdonald said...

Fantastic piece. Very helpful. Thanks so much for the inspiration and reminder to keep on keepin' on.

Unknown said...

Hope, you're always there for inspiration right when I need it. Thank you!

Laura M. Campbell said...

My insecurities cultivated a back-burner writer for years after I graduated from Penn State with my English degree. After leaving my job as a teacher this past summer, I took a chance and decided to make my dream a reality.

Since, I've written the first draft of a mystery novel. I have several short stories in progress. I'm writing more consistently on my blog. AND...I had an article published in MetroKids magazine.

People are starting to believe me when I say I'm a writer because I believe I'm a writer. I'm still working on saying "No." My DVR helps me keep in touch with my TV shows. And I need to get out more often (damn snow!).

Small steps and a fire in my gut keeps me living the dream. Thanks for the post!

Anne Elizabeth Mueller said...

I love this piece too. I am in the stage were I still feel guilty when I take the time to write. (but I do it anyway) I am trying very hard to let go of it. It is great to get a reminder now and then, that it is okay to just write. Thanks for the reminder and the motivation.

Vicki said...

Loved reading this this morning, Hope. I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

I am not afraid to tell people 'no'. Although, I do have somewhat of a social life through the phone or when I watch a movie with my boyfriend, but everyone is realizing that I am a writer and when I'm at work they ask 'how is your writing going?'. I'm proud to say 'it's going great' when I answer. Doing something for yourself is a part of life people either take too seriously or neglect. When you are truly passionate about something it never leaves your mind and it becomes as habitual as eating.

Thanks for such a lovely post! :)

Hope Clark said...

Thanks, Diva. People recognize us for what we put before them.

Karen Lange said...

Thanks, Hope. Always sort of fought feeling bad about saying no. Not so much anymore. Especially to phone calls...
Happy weekend,

Unknown said...

Great post, Hope. I felt like you were talking directly to me--reminding me that the fire is not as hot as it used to be, but the desire is still there.
I really related to the comments by Anne and Laura. Thank you all for the "wake-up call" and inspiration I needed.
Blessings to you all,
Theresa Hamilton
The Accidental Preacher's Wife

Yvonne Mokihana Calizar said...

Thanks for sharing the fire! Since I can't literally be near fires, I'm feeling it on the inside where it counts the most.

The words are flying hot, and I'm feeding on the heat.