I just read Delia Ephron's new book, Sister Mother Husband Dog, Etc. In one of her essays she discussed her writing
day. She writes from 9-noon and 2-5. As I read this, I felt the vice of
frustration tightened across my chest. What a luxury! During the week I can
rarely squeeze out an hour of writing time. I have a big project for work that
I try to keep from spilling into my private hours, but the exhaustion generated
at the end of each day makes it impossible to do anything but veg in front of
the boob tube during the week. It is only on the weekends that I have the
luxury of a couple of hours of uninterrupted time.
This year I'm trying to finish mystery novel. I'm two-thirds of the way through the third rewrite. A couple of weeks ago I realized the middle needed to be rearranged, the characters better fleshed out, the clues and red herrings...well, you get the idea.
Last week, I finally got all the various scenes rearranged, but I haven't done any new writing in a month. I had set myself a goal of finishing this draft in September and then have the members of the critique group I’m in read the completed draft. Well, September has come and gone along with my goal. At the moment my writing life sucks. So I sent email to the group, letting them know I wouldn’t have anything to share at our Skype session ( We meet in person once a month and then have a Skype session in between). Shortly there after, a flurry of email responses popped up in my inbox.
As it turned out, none of us had anything to share. All of us were having the same problem: too many demands on our time, leaving little or no time write. We decided to Skype anyway. We all needed a place to vent our frustrations. So at the appointed hour of our session, we all joined in with wine, beer and, in my case, Bailey's in hand.
After we ranted for an hour and half, what came out was that we all have careers and family obligations. Those in and of themselves are not the problem, but add to that all of us are driven by the need to write, all of us have Type A personalities, and we are use to setting and meeting goals in our career lives. But we can’t seem to meet them in our writing lives. There isn’t enough time left in the day to WRITE. Frustration, like pressure in a propane tank, builds until a simple comment becomes the point of ignition. BAM!!!
The explosion and fire that ensues burns everything and everyone in its path. Even the clean up afterwards can't erase the scars.
So how to relieve the pressure before the ignition point is reached? Here’s some ideas we came up with and a few I added afterwards:
1. Call up a writer friend and rant (our Skype session). A writer friend has been there, too. Friends and family, who don’t write, will try to be sympathetic but they won’t get why you are ready to rip the front door off its hinges, quit your job, divorce your spouse or lover, and send your children off to boarding school.
2. Forgive yourself for not meeting your writing goals. Accept that daily life gets in the way.
3. Take up the gauntlet again, because writing is the only way to get over the frustration (and the guilt) of not writing.
• Be realistic about the demands on your time that your life puts on you. Find alternative ways to meet your writing goals.
• Write in small chunks when you don’t have a stretch of time. Instead of trying to write a chapter in two days, break it down into scenes that you can write over a week. E. L. James, author of Fifty Shades of Grey, said she wrote on the bus, tube, and during lunch hours, while working as lawyer before she got published.
• Determine a time each week when you can have a regular, longer stretch of writing time. Negotiate this with your family, spouse, lover, children, etc. AND STICK TO IT. If you don’t respect your writing time, neither will they.
4. Buy a tablet (iPad, Nexus 7, or whatever). It will become your best friend. With it you can write anywhere. I use Notes on my iPad to write a scene, email it to myself and then transfer it to Scrivener or Word on my laptop, depending on what I’m writing.
5. Join a writing group. They will be your tribe. They will understand you (see #1).