Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Writing Routine?

Tuesdays with Amy

I have a confession: I don’t write every day. The conventional wisdom is that a bar must be set each day for a person to call herself a writer. In his book On Writing, Stephen King states that it’s 10 pages a day for him, even Christmas. Claire Cook suggests in her writing workshops that two pages is a manageable goal. In her book, Making a Literary Life, the darling Carolyn See titled Chapter Three, A Thousand Words a Day. Jennifer Haigh told me she sits at her kitchen table each morning and drafts her pages in long hand. Every single day.

All of their industriousness left me to wonder about my own routine. When I began my last book, I spent weeks simply listening to my protagonist tell me her story. She was a bit shy at first, reserved may be a better word, but soon I was able to capture her voice on the page. I worked for six months on that first chapter, getting to know my characters, letting the story unfold. And not every day. Entire months would pass before I’d take out my WIP and look at the pages again. Sure, in-between, I was freelancing essays, but I was not writing my book every day.

Still, it called to me.

I have three children, a job, a house that needs cleaning (it doesn’t help that I’m a bit OCD); there are many demands on my time. Many days I would rise at 4:30 a.m. to get in two hours of writing before my children woke. Other days, I would sneak in only 45 minutes when I was supposed to be at yoga, ten minutes when I should have been folding laundry. There were times when I would go as long as four days without writing at all. It was always a purposeful break, though.

I needed to wallow within my characters’ lives. I afforded myself time to ponder their innermost thoughts and fears, imagine what secrets they kept, what experiences had brought them to their present states. My best writing was done in the shower or while walking. Afterward, I would race to the computer and pour out entire chapters within a few hours. Still, I was aware that I wasn’t living up to the true writers’ standard.

Then I read an interview with National Book Award recipient, Julia Glass. In it, she said she followed a similar routine while writing Three Junes: stealing 15 minutes from her workday, constructing plot points while showering, and long periods of writing nothing at all.

So, really, be assured there is no one perfect routine to achieve your writing goal, only the one that works for you. Just ask Julia

1 comment:

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