This thing called a writing life

Diana Pharaoh FrancisDiana Pharaoh Francis
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I’m actually not going to talk about the writing life. I’m going to talk about life instead. Writing is a job. Writing is a tremendously fun job, but a job nonetheless. Writers always write. We always observe, always collect bits of cool ideas, we always think about our characters, our plots, our plans for torture . . . .

This is not good. This, in fact, is bad.

Writers have to get away fTrace of Magic - 600x900x300rom the writing. We need vacations; we need time to relax, to not be working. But writing is so wonderful. so amazing, so awful, so terrifying, so stressful, and horrifying,  that we can’t ever leave it. When we try, it follows us. It traps us in the shower and on the toilet. It hunts us in traffic and at the grocery store. Go get on a rollercoaster? Just try riding it without writing wrapped around your neck, claws dug deep into your flesh.

So there you go. You need to get away, but you can’t. What do you do?

They best you can do is to try to take a break. Stake out some time. Define the beginning and the ending. Then start doing something else. Go read. Go walk on the beach or take a hike. Go swimming. Do something you also enjoy and feel passionate about. You can’t escape writing, but notice when you’re thinking writerly thoughts and let them go. Let them spin off into your mind. They’ll come back or maybe they won’t, but that’s not the point. Your brain and creativity need rest in order to fill the well. You need some time each day and each week, to let that happen. No just during sleep, but during waking time, as well.Diana Pharaoh Francis

This is essential to writing.

Now, you might ask me just how well I succeed in this. The answer right now is, not as well as I’d like. As I’ve mentioned previously, my son’s been sick for some time. Because of that, my writing schedule has become erratic. Because I’m having to do kid stuff, errand stuff, doctor stuff, and you name it, all during my writing times, I’m having to steal writing time from whenever I can get it–nights, weekends, and anywhere in between. That leaves precious little down time to replenish the creative stores.

That’s a mistake, and it can turn into a negative feedback loop, or downward spiral, really. You’ve heard it before. You need to protect the work. That means protect the creativity and the time you need to make words happen.

Now that’s where you point at me and say, well? What are you doing about it?

I’m going back to making schedules for myself, from writing time, to errands, to fun time. I’m trying to protect the work by making sure that I am writing when I’m scheduled to be, and by making sure I’m feeding the creativity. I am also doing my damnedest to prioritize and ask for the help I need from my family and I’m also trying to say no to things that steal from the writing–which means that also steals from the not-writing time I need to replenish.

My point is just this: we say protect the work, but that doesn’t always mean the writing. It also means the healthiness of your mind, soul, and body, and that means protecting the time you don’t write so that you can fill the creative well. Figure out what wastes your time and your life and cut it out. Figure out what doesn’t make you happy and drop it like a bad habit. Sleep. Don’t carve time from rest and exercise.

And the usual wicked self promo: You can preorder Trace of Magic now on Kindle. More formats will follow, including Nook, but it’s not posted up there yet. The book releases on August 29th.

 

The Biography of Me: I didn’t start out to be a writer. I was a storyteller from as far back as I can remember, and a daydreamer of epic stories, but it never occurred to me to write anything down. I read voraciously, but I wasn’t one of those people who said–hey! I could do this! Or even, this is so awful I could do better. I marveled at writers and thought of writing as something other people did. I did try my hand at some really horrible poetry in my senior year of high school. It was dramatic and bleak and world-tiltingly awful. When I got to college, I did poorly in my freshman comp class. I wrote in purple prose and use twenty words for what I could say in two. I loved language, but I didn’t really have much control over it. Then I took a creative writing class. It was awful. Total slaughter. I had caught the bug, though, and from there on out, I wrote. Eventually I wrote a really bad romance and finished it. I finished it! I could do that! And then I went to graduate school and another graduate school, got married, had dogs, had kids, went to work professing, and kept writing. Finally I had my first book accepted and I’ve been writing ever since.

As far as the prosaic stuff goes, I like to crochet, bake bread, spoil corgis, eat chocolate, sing to the radio, pretend to play tennis, geocache, crochet, and garden. Though I really hate weeding. I also like to make my hair purple with some frequency. You can find me on twitter as @dianapfrancis and my website at www.dianapfrancis.com or on facebook.

 

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2 comments to This thing called a writing life

  • Razziecat

    Diana, this post is a good counterpoint to the one a few days ago in which everyone talked about how we can use that “wasted time” while we’re commuting to work or whatever. I didn’t comment because, I confess, I felt a little left out. I don’t own a smartphone or a tablet; they’re not in the budget. But I also don’t feel an urge to get those things, because I treasure my “down time,” including that ride on the bus, letting my mind wander or enjoying the sights outside the window (a view of the river is good for the soul!). And going home, it’s all I can do most days not to fall asleep on the bus and miss my stop! There are times when all I want is for my mind to let go of the worries, the plots, the plans and everythint else, and just vegetate for a while ;D No one can run their mind at top speed 24/7; it’s exhausting. So thanks for reminding us that sometimes we really do need to get away from writing, in order to come back to it with new energy.

  • Razziecat: Absolutely, feeding the soul and staying mentally healthy is absolutely critical and it’s so easy to slowly let the mice bite away at the edges of that time until there’s none left. Americans still have that Puritan work ethic buried in their psyche that says downtime is lazy is bad so get up and work. Most other cultures recognize that downtime is critical to life.