Monday, March 22, 2010

When I Write; When I Don't Write

To be successful as a writer, one must write.  This is the one unchanging truism that is repeated by every successful writer when asked what it took to "make it."  The answer is couched many different ways, but at the end of the day it sums up to: write.  Write more and more.  Write at every opportunity.  Through trial and error repeated ad infinitum, a writer polishes his or her craft.

It is easy for a writer to comment on a message board, comment on Facebook, or write a blog entry.  It is not so easy for a writer to write a novel or a screenplay or a non-fiction book.  The difference, of course, is one of scope: the deeper, more extensive projects require an order of magnitude more time. 

More precisely, and more critical to the issue of when a writer can write, the deeper projects require time available in uninterrupted spans.  It is simply impossible in a short time period to get warmed up, get the requisite info "loaded into RAM" mentally, apply the chops, and lay down text.  It is much the same when editing, where the real heavy lifting of writing is done and which most successful writers suggest should only be started once the first draft of the main body of a text is complete.

Paul Graham explains the timespan issue in his essay Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule, and though Graham is referring mainly to coding, his observations hold absolutely true for writing as well. 

Knowing this, I sometimes worry that I will never really become successful writing under my own ticket unless I am doing it full-time.  This also fulfills Portnoy's Principle that success in a creative or artistic endeavor usually requires a combination of adversity and absolute commitment.  Essentially, you don't win the campaign unless you're willing to cross the Rubicon.

As it stands, I am not in a position to quit my job.  On balance, my job is a good one, and I am afforded time throughout the day to do small amounts of writing, such as on my blog.  If I end up having to go back to commuting via bus, I will also have another hour or so in the morning and evening to write while mobile.  But the bottom line is that I am not writing full-time, so my major writing projects have lagged. 

The weekends, once a bonanza of available time, saw me diminishing in productivity as my sleep apnea worsened.  Then, we had Evey and doubled the child-monitoring workload at a time when Allie was still not old enough to play without direct supervision.  Then the economy tanked and our costs for child care and such skyrocketed, leaving us even after cutbacks in a position in which I have to do eBay work in order to make good.  As Graham explains, any interruption is likely to destroy an entire afternoon's work for a Maker.  These last few months, I have been interrupted a minimum of three different ways.  I didn't stand a chance.

There is reason to hope.  CPAP therapy is going well, so I am more awake and more primed for creativity for longer periods.  We are making family arrangements for child care that should start in a few months, and that will allow me to bail once again from eBay.  Finally, Steph has been taking the girls on outings, leaving me with precious tranquility.  We're not quite there yet, but I am confident that when the day comes that I can sit down at my computer, close the door, and not notice the passage of time until the hunger pangs come, that will be a day I make headway toward success.

Until then, I'll squeeze in a few paragraphs here or there where I can.  Fortunately, I have that luxury.

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