I thought I’d offer up a few thoughts on how it looks from my own perspective and experience.
First of all: everyone’s different. Okay, we can all agree on that, so let’s just get it out of the way at the very beginning. When writers write about process, we’re talking about our own experience, how it works for us. I learn so much reading about other writers’ process: I love hearing about it, it’s endlessly fascinating…but still, my process is my own. It may evolve over time, I may try new things, but at the end of the day, it’s still me, my lizard brain, my butt in my chair and my fingers on my keyboard.
Here’s the other thing to get out of the way: jaylake is a freak. I mean, I love him to pieces, but let’s be honest here: he’s not like the rest of us. I’ve gotten to know him pretty well over the last year or so, and I’ve never met anyone even remotely like him. He really does sleep 6 hours a night, with no wasted time: falls asleep like turning out a light switch, wakes up without an alarm, alert and fully functional. (Unless he’s sick or something.) He multitasks for real–not like normal people, who switch between things and do them all half-assedly–no, he can pay full and thoughtful attention to several things at once, and do them all better than most people can do each thing alone. And don’t even get me started on his memory. Jeez.
I’m a normal human being. I wake up slowly, and a bit cranky; I need time to pull my head together, to go do an hour-plus of yoga; I need my coffee and my shower and my breakfast and my quiet space and my internet fiddling, and I need the room to be clean and organized and my desk to be reasonably neat and things to just sort of be, you know, together. Jay doesn’t. He can write on airplanes, in bars, at parties, with noise and mess and chaos everywhere, with his child interrupting him, while I’m cooking dinner and talking to him. On the toilet. Really. Anywhere, anytime.
All right, so he’s a freak. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t make useful points and observations. So here’s how it works for mere mortals. (Or, at least, for me.)
I don’t own a TV–haven’t had one since I moved to my apartment in February, and watched very little for a few years before that. I grew up without television, in my elementary school years; watched it a lot in junior high and high school; didn’t have one in college, and have been more or less indifferent to it since then. (Except for baseball. Ah, baseball.) I’ve never played games, computer or otherwise, so there was nothing to give up there.
When I got serious about my writing five or so years ago, I realized that I had to do it regularly if I was going to get any better at it, if I was going to keep the story in my head. It’s true: you can’t wait for the muse, or nothing happens. You have to write even when you don’t feel like it. You have to write even when it’s hard. (And I know I’m saying “you” here when I mean “me”…but I’m guessing this is true for most normal people. And even forjaylake.)
What did I give up, to make this time? Well, that last bit of TV I was watching (sigh, baseball), and a hell of a lot of reading. And movies.
When we saw District 9 on Saturday, that was literally the first movie I’d seen all year, in a theater. Looking back through my calendar, I see I’ve seen two movies at people’s houses, since January 1. That actually sort of sucks. I’d really like to see more movies. I love movies, and I miss a lot of the common narrative by not seeing them.
Even more, though, do I love reading, and that’s really fallen off too. My “to-be-read” pile is legendary and frightening. It’s not even a pile any more: it’s three shelves in two rooms, plus a small stack on the nightstand, plus random books scattered here and there, plus a wishlist in my own head, and it’s growing all the time. I used to read three or four books a week; now it takes me a week or more to get through a book. And forget about rereading favorites! I would so love to tackle the Baroque Cycle again, and savor it, since I gobbled it the first time through. But, no way. Often my only reading time is after I get into bed…I manage a chapter or two, then can’t hold my eyes open any more.
But I write. Almost every day. Even when I don’t feel like it. And I get a lot accomplished. I always wish for more time. There is never enough time. I do have a busy and active social life–I’m not a complete shut-in–but I make that writing time nearly every day, and a word count goal based on the time I have. And then I sit in that chair and don’t get to stop until that goal is met.
Tell me your process. How do you make it work? What do you give up?