Monday, January 5, 2009

Schedule Struggles

Made a momentous decision this morning: I put off clipping the dogs' nails until after my writing time.

That was after chicken chores, of course, and making the dogs' breakfast, brushing their teeth, giving Lexi her pills, and misting the rosemary bush that I'm trying to nurse through winter indoors. Nevertheless, it's an achievement for me to put off one animal-related task in favor of writing. I hope it bodes well for the year to come.

Reading lately about the struggles of other writers (you know who you are) to fit in writing time has inspired me to look at my own practice. Which boils down to this: do everything else first, then write. I've been squeezing my writing, and drawing, between sunset and dinner, rushing to post the day's output while the spaghetti water heats on the stove.

All over the country, much better writers than I are doing the same, writing in dribs and drabs, with the dregs of their energies. But they have valid reasons for this—jobs, children, commutes, complications—as I once did. Now, however, I lead an unimaginably placid and free existence, and I'm still sacrificing writing to anything and everything that comes my way: laundry, exercise, dog grooming, phone calls, not to mention gardening.

One possible reason for this cavalier attitude towards writing is that, having returned to it in the past year after a decade-long hiatus, I find the publishing world utterly transformed. Most of the newspapers and magazines that used to publish my pieces are gone. The ones that remain have sharply cut their article lengths. Editors no longer send rejection letters—they let an icy silence carry the message. Sometimes, the only way you know a piece is being published is when a check appears in the mail. This blog is a way for me to keep writing, in the hope that somehow a path will reveal itself.

Blogging has given me a freedom I'd never known before, to write about what I choose, the way I choose. It has opened up dialogues about which I care deeply. It has changed the way I think of myself as a writer. So it deserves better treatment from me.

Henceforth my battle-cry will be: Write First! I hope my critters, my plants and my spouse survive. I think they will. I am less optimistic about my ability to keep this up when spring arrives, and the birds wake me up in the morning and everything pulls me outdoors. Then I will remind myself that Colette, when she was living near St. Tropez, placed her writing table facing the wall, so the view out the window wouldn't tempt her. In her early writing years, her infamous first husband used to lock her up in a room to write, and then publish her books under his name. Despite everything, she was grateful to him for instilling in her the discipline of daily writing.

If any of you have less draconian methods of making yourselves write, I'd love to hear about them!


7 comments :

  1. I find that if I view writing as a refuge instead of a task, a playground instead of a job, it all flows so much more easily.

    I find that if I write early in the morning, my defenses are lower and my inner censor isn't as stern.

    I find that as much as I hunger for feedback, when I'm actually writing I need to write intimately, for myself or as if to a dear and trusted friend, instead of for an Audience. The latter will make me freeze RIGHT up.

    I find the more I trust my own voice and my quirks, the more fully I can express myself. The more I moderate and modulate and try to sound a certain way, the more stilted I become.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great stuff from Lali and Craig. I'm one of the job people wondering when I can get my next post up. I'm also someone who cannot work outside because I would never work—nature is far too distracting. My desk faces the wall, but my window is just over my right shoulder...

    Hey Lali, wanna go work out? I may actually be at Dona's class this morning...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Craig,
    your words really do ring true. I'm going to join the fight against "moderation and modulation."

    ReplyDelete
  4. Indigo,
    Maybe we should blindfold ourselves and learn to type in Braille. Oh, and wear earplugs, too. I bet our minds would still find a way to wander--at least mine would.
    I'll probably see you at the gym this morning. I'll be the one with the brand-new haircut (my appointment's at 9).

    ReplyDelete
  5. And there you were! It looks great!

    ReplyDelete
  6. wow, did that draconian first husband also go on a long bicycle ride with her and then leave her to die in a park in winona, minnesota?

    despite my whines and wails about No Time to Write, history has shown me very clearly that i write best first thing in the morning, still in pajamas, before newspapers, before coffee, before just about everything.

    history has also shown me that i can only write for a certain number of hours a day--maybe three at the most.

    so what's your best time? can you just schedule your writing for when Lali Writes Best? and the natural world, and all the needy animals will have to wait, and adapt.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes! Still warm from the bed, barely awake, super-ego out of order, that's the time to write! (But I have to feed the chickens first.)

    ReplyDelete