A Writer’s Life

by wjw on October 14, 2008

Some of you, I’m sure, wonder why I’m not more prolific, like those other SF writers.

A description of my day might give you a good idea.

I rose this morning, fed the cats, ate a banana, and went out into the breezeway to do martial arts. I did about a quarter-hour of kata before repeated telephone calls and other distractions wrecked my concentration, so I gave up. I showered and had lunch. I went to the office supply place, but they didn’t have everything I needed, so I had to go someplace else. I bought groceries, filled the gas tank at one place, then went to the tire store, where I read a book while my tired were rotated.

It was Columbus Day, so I didn’t have to spend any time reading mail.

By this time it was 4pm. I read and answered email, did a modest amount of web browsing, then ran on the elliptical machine for an hour. I did my stretches, relaxed for a bit in the hot tub, then made and ate my dinner.

I must admit that I spent the next couple hours playing Europa Universalis Rome— actually it should be called Roma if they’re going to title the whole thing in Latin, shouldn’t it? At any rate, I take full responsibility for those hours, as our politicians would say.

I wouldn’t have played so long if Ptolemy hadn’t put a contract out on my general, forcing me to invade him and teach him a lesson.

It is now 11pm, and I’m now ready to start writing— after I prepare a package for Federal Express to pick up tomorrow morning, and call FedEx to get schedule the pickup. All the other things I was going to do today, like deal with the insurance company and the Social Security Administration re: my mom and a few other things, are going to be postponed till tomorrow.

I really need a secretary/dogsbody to handle most of this for me, but I can’t afford one. I’ve shoved off as much work as I can on Kathy, who is surprisingly cool with it.

How do people who work eight hours per day manage?

Okay. To work now.

Ralf the Dog October 14, 2008 at 7:32 am

Quality not quantity. Some writers of the past have been able to turn out fantastic books in volume. It seems today the popular writers (the ones that start with two dimensional characters and contract) can write a book a minute.

My favorite authors are lucky to turn out a book every few years. Please, keep up the slow work.

PS. I don’t want to insult the book a minute club. Many high volume writers develop incredible characters and cool ideas that they weave into plots with elegance and grace. Even the hacks can spell better than I.

Lawrence M. Schoen October 14, 2008 at 12:12 pm

Ptolemy has much to answer for.

Ralf the Dog October 14, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Lawrence, What do you expect from an astronomer? Always with there heads in the clouds.

Ethan October 14, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I’ve heard (or more probably read) that Iain Banks writes intensively for three months a year, completes a book, and then takes nine months off. You could try that.

Ralf the Dog October 14, 2008 at 9:01 pm

At my job I am mostly responsible for spotting problems others don’t see and finding nontraditional solutions to problems they do. A big part of my job is reading everything I can, watching the news and playing with random ideas.

I do more traditional work as well, however, when I load myself down with too much of it I find myself less “Out of the box.”

I think life for those of us who are paid to be creative tends to be a balancing act between keeping our minds in that hyper creative state and doing things like remembering to eat and clearing a path so we can get from the office to the front door.

Bruce October 15, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Well, I’ve said a few times that writing — after the dayjob, housekeeping, and caregiving — is my fourth job, not my first or second.

In that light, I’ve actually done pretty well, with about a dozen stories published over the years, another stack of unsold stuff, and that one television script back in the 90’s.

I’ve even managed to get about 15 pages of fiction work written the last few months, more than I’d done in the last year or so before that. So we muddle along as best we can.

halojones-fan October 15, 2008 at 6:53 pm

One thing I’ve found is that despite thirty years of Progressive evolution, the modern American service industry still assumes that every adult is married and the wife doesn’t work.

Ian October 16, 2008 at 6:12 pm

I’d trade daily schedules in a heartbeat, Walter.

I get up at 6am, and on a really good day when insomnia isn’t making me a zombie, I might get 15 minutes to work on writing before I leave the house at 7am. Then I go to my mentally exhausting day job until 5pm. It goes without saying that any fiction writing work (aside from the occasional stray thought I can jot down) during the day job is strictly forbidden (and, depending on circumstances, technically a crime). I get home around 5:30. The minute I walk in the door the clock starts ticking on my day’s hour of writing time. After that I have to deal with bills, cooking, cleaning, yardwork, phone calls, and all that other fun stuff. Since I live alone there is nobody to split the work with me. I haven’t factored in time for critgroup reading, which is a fairly large issue some months, because I’m a slow reader. And I have to drop everything by around 9pm, so that I can take medicine and start to unwind, otherwise I’ll be up until 1 or 2am and have to do it all over again the next day on a sleep deficit. On weekdays when I have to run errands or make non-work-related telephone calls, it means leaving to do them during lunch and either (1) not eating anything for lunch, or (2) eating a late lunch at my desk while working. (Weekends are better, of course.)

This comment, for instance, was written in 30-second installments over several hours.

dubjay October 17, 2008 at 6:37 am

Ian, I fully intend that my lifestyle be the envy of all who know me.

You can stand that kind of schedule because you’re young. Once I, too, was bursting with vim, pluck, and talent.

When you’re my age, and your physical and mental state is deteriorating as quickly as mine, you too will be as frustrated as I am by pull tabs, television remotes, and your inability to remember where you left your nice cup of tea.

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