My Life As a Writer

I used to romanticize being a writer. I thought it was this sophisticated life of coffee shops and cocktail parties.  Perhaps for some people it is that. I don’t know. Unfortunately, I don’t know very many other writers. Most of the ones I’ve met are suburban housewives who write as a hobby.That’s not me.

Nothing against suburban housewives. I would love to be one. But the thing about being a suburban housewife, or any wife for that matter, is that it requires a certain sort of…other consenting party. If said party cannot be procured…well…then…you are just a single woman. And single women cannot sit at a computer for hours on end making up imaginary people. This is how they become crazy cat ladies.

I’ve read about successful writers who can write around a houseful of children and jot down whole scenes waiting in the elementary school car-line. To these, I give my props. I’m not like that. Unfortunately, I’m the sort of mad-artiste type who can’t write because they can feel the pea under the desk chair. Creativity is a practically a deity in my life.

Although, I’ve come to learn that an artist’s reverence of creativity over diligence is inversely proportional to the amount of work that that artist actually produces. My greatest lesson as a writer is, “If you write it, it will come.” Diligence and structure do not hinder creativity. They can, in fact, create it. I have, thus, made myself much more disciplined than I used to be.

I start with a silent room in a near silent environment. I am a tactile learner, so I usually have to have some sort of snack of drink. It’s usually coffee, bottled water, or soda. When I was writing my book, I would go through a jumbo bottle of creamer in three days, and a twenty-four pack of sodas in a week. I gained twenty pounds. I  switched to bottled water, nixed the cookies for fresh fruit and bought a workout DVD.

I also have a couple of foam stress balls that I bounce as I think. One is of a globe, and the other a pretty red ball emblazoned with a gentle reminder to pay my student loans. I like to throw this one against the wall really hard.

I used to be a nocturnal writer.  I did my best writing in the dark of the the morning. My dorm had a sort of “secret ninth floor,” comprised of a lounge surrounded by bay windows. I liked to go up there in the late hours by myself and write until the sun came up. From the ninth floor, you could see the light coming up gradually over the city. One side of the room would show the city clearly under a pink or even yellow light, while the other side was still bathed in inky darkness. Between the two was was a hazy purple gray. This always seemed wildly poetic to me, even though I could never quite capture the metaphor. I would write a lot about light after that.

Then the corporate world changed the way I think. Somehow, what one does in the hours of 9 to 5 seems like a barometer of their productivity in life, even though, at as only eight of a twenty-four hour day, it is only one third of their time.

Philosophical musings on corporate culture aside , I generally try to work on forty hour work week. I have actually found this to be a good idea, as accounting offices are generally not open at two a.m. And these are the most important people you will deal with, even beyond the editors.

So, between eight and ten a.m, I begin my day. I sit at my desk, and turn on the music. The music is anything I’m into at the time. Johnny Lang, U2, Counting Crows…whatever. I may begin with a writing exercise to get my brain moving. Or, I edit whatever I’m working on. Then, once I get into the real meat of the writing, I need quiet. Although, sometimes I will turn on soft piano music, or something like ocean waves. At one point during my novel, I went through a Celtic music phase.

Lately, I’ve been banging my head to come up with a new project. I have some vague ideas for things. But, nothing that really has any momentum.  So, right now, it’s a lot of stop and start.


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