Monday, October 9, 2017

Writer, interrupted

It is a truth universally acknowledged (at least at any large gathering of writers) that no one respects our writing time. A call from the spouse. “Hey, while you’re at home ‘writing’, [can’t you just feel the air quotes in that statement] could you maybe start the laundry? I would but I’m at work [you know, a real job?]

A call from your mother. “Hey, honey, how are you?”

You: “Is your house burning down, ‘cause you know I’m writing now, right?”

“The house is fine, but [I’ll just cut to the chase and not write what she says, but the subtext] I’m getting old, and someday you’ll be wracked with guilt over not spending enough time with me instead of this pretend thing you do called writing. I mean really, is it as important as spending time with your mother?

I heard all these types of things at the writers retreat on Pelee Island I just attended. I joined in with my own tales of interruption, if I’m to be honest. There are all types of things competing for a writer’s time, not just people. In fact, as I write this, this stupid notification keeps popping up in the corner of my desktop and it’s making me crazy. [hold the phone while I figure out how to turn the damn thing off] Ok. Done. I'm back. Where was I---Shit, the cat just jumped in my lap. Aw, how sweet—wait, no I can’t see the computer screen, we’ve had this conversation you can’t. Be. On the. DESK.


Everyone who’s given writing a solid go knows it’s so, so hard. I just had my brain mashed by Chuck Wendig last week at the writers [cat, get the hell off the desk] retreat. We talked the wispy weirdness of theme and did log lines for our characters, and everyone knows log lines are hella hard and themes are elusive. It’s like trying to herd the cat that’s on my desk again, but so, so much harder.

Getting the words down on paper is the first step of a toddling baby who has those metaphorical miles to go before they write a novel. There is a long, sometimes seemingly infinite, series of steps to make your writing good. It takes concentration. It takes dedication. We all know this. But I think we need to add another ingredient. It takes a writer to value their own work.

If you value your work, guess what? You have the conviction in what you’re doing to not pick up the phone when something benign happens. A notification, the tenth call today from grandma. The cat. Whatever. You place your writing high up on the scale of priorities because of the value it provides to you. Sometimes we downplay that value, but if you love to write, you know what I mean. We live in a crazy, fucked up world right now. If writing is a thing of joy for you, something that helps you deal with a headspace unmanageable, a family crisis, a health issue, and it’s a source of energy that fuels the rest of your existence in this place… isn’t that something to not just value but cherish and protect?


This is the cat who really didn’t want this post written, but wanted to swish her tail at the screen about every other sentence. I just want it noted I have photographic evidence that while yes, technically, she’s still on my desk, she’s been relegated to the edge of the desk and is expressing her cat-like dissatisfaction by crunching up important papers and will no longer make eye contact. The post is written and I won.

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