Oh gosh. People laugh at my laptop because most of the keys are worn down to nubs and the majority of the letters are invisible. I am a lucky person, because most of the time, I can work at home. I can now literally work anywhere in the world where I have internet access, and I’ve put that to the test several times in the past few months.
I write about 5,000 words a day, every day. Most of these words have been nonfiction over the past ten years. However, in the past year, I’ve been writing at least 1,000 words of fiction a day, every day. Add that up! It amazed me – I am very glad of this.
When my daughter (age21) was young, I used to get up at 5:00 a.m. and write from 5:00 to 7:00 each morning. Then she would wake and our day would start. During this time, I wrote the initial fiction that I published.
In addition to my fiction writing, I also write non-fiction, and I am a professional business planner and fund developer in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. I also teach writing at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo in Southern California, where I’ve taught since 2000.
I still find my best writing hours are in the early morning. This is when I’m fresh and things seem to come most easily. Of course, this is going to vary depending on individual biological clocks and circadian rhythms.
Which brings us to the real McDeal. Yes, we can all put our rears in the chair, and we must. Yes, we can all set a schedule, deadlines, and goals. And we must.
I just finished the first really good book of my life, and I’ve published one novel under my own name and two under pseudonyms, and written three others. I just wrote something that means something to me, and which I hope will mean something to other people.
I spent a good five years assembling a notebook of “The Heroine’s Journey.” I was seeking a story. A story I didn’t see in other books. I didn’t know this story from my study of the Russian novel, nor 19th Century British literature, nor Shakespeare, nor from many – heck – any – other books I’d read. I might, myself, take the “Goddess” test online and come out half Persephone and half Aphrodite to the amusement of my friends who were all 100% Hera or Vesta, but darned if I could find such a story about such a character. Where she didn’t, like, throw herself under a train, or get dragged down to the underworld, or dragged back home by her hair at the end or some such thing.
Many of my competitors, I found, were writing stories about males – and not necessarily “leaders.” A lot of stories involving military conflict involve what I, for lack of a better word, will call “middle management.” Still other stories involve “clever thieves” or disenfranchised orphans or others who are in a lesser position for whatever reason. Which stories involved a main character who is not only in charge, is someone who deserves to be in charge, and furthermore, feels the full and legitimate weight of that responsibility? Or, to put it another way, a while back, I reflected upon George R.R. Martin’s books and thought, “Who the h*** would fight to the death for any of these yahoos?” The only ones who could inspire such behavior, Martin kills off, lickety-split. I could not find such tales.
What freed me to write my own story was a simple, childlike trick. Instead of “inventing” characters out of thin air, why didn’t I just put characters inspired by the people I knew and loved in the story? For me, the story came alive with this trick or technique. It was a joy and excitement to write every day – to find out what happened! If I was unable to write in the morning due to an early class or meeting, I would then write each night after dinner.
What writers need, I think, is a sense of passion or purpose. This isn’t easy to come by. Finding the stories we were meant to tell may take a lifetime.
All I can say is, when the story is right, there is nothing better. Let the phone ring, let dinner burn. Or do takeout.
Sit you down, live it, and write.
By the way, as Broos and Astá fell in love in Like Fire, so too did Amy and Bruce fall in love in real life. If that’s not inspirational motivation to write, I don’t know what is.
Inspired by a lifelong love of nature, endless curiosity, and a belief in wonderful things, Amy Sterling Casil is a 2002 Nebula Award nominee and recipient of other awards and recognition for her short science fiction and fantasy, which has appeared in publications ranging from to . She is the author of 26 nonfiction books, over a hundred short stories, primarily science fiction and fantasy, two fiction and poetry collections, and three novels. She lives in Aliso Viejo, California with her daughter Meredith and a Jack Russell Terrier named Gambit. Amy is the founder of Pacific Human Capital, a founding member and treasurer of Book View Café author cooperative and former treasurer of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, and teaches writing and composition at Saddleback College, after receiving her MFA from Chapman University in 1999. She is currently engaged in founding a new publishing company for the 21st century, Chameleon Publishing.