Salvage

I like big chunks of time for writing. I loved being home all day to write from March 2010 to October 2011. I love the approximately-quarterly writing binges that the Thessalon writers’ group holds. It gives me time to get seriously into a piece of work and whack huge pieces out of the “to-do” list.

There are a couple of problems with this model. One is re-entry time; the longer you are away from a piece of work, the more time it takes to get back into it. The second problem with this model, for me now, and probably for many other writers, is that big chunks of time are so scarce in the average life.

Since taking up full-time outside work in November, after having over eighteen months of straight home-and-writing time, I’ve been finding it very difficult to manage my writing. I’m not saying I haven’t written, because I’ve written a lot, and I’m proud of myself for maintaining my commitments on the commercial and non-fiction end.

What’s suffered is the fiction. At this point I’ve almost completely stopped writing flash, short stories and poetry. Theoretically I have time to write the short stuff, but what I’ve lost is musing time. My main concern now is The Swan Harp.

I’ve been working on this novel for two years, and I want to get it done. I’m in third draft now – fourth if you count the Frankenstein draft, where I cut it up and rearranged it and wrote more stuff. In October I was beginning to feel I was getting somewhere with it, and then I had to take full-time work. It was extremely frustrating to have to lay it aside again for that, and for the emotional, financial and personal crises that had to be attended to.

When things calmed down and I had emotional energy for fiction again, I no longer had my time. Then David, my husband, came up with a brilliant suggestion. We work at the same place, and have an hour-and-a-half commute each way. He drives in, and I drive home. David’s suggestion was that I take my laptop and use the trip in to write.

There’s some sacrifice on his part – while I’m writing, he can neither talk to me nor listen to rock music on the radio. After I open my novel and start, he says nothing until I put it away, and then he says, “How did it go?”

It goes well. I didn’t expect that I’d be able to write fiction in the car, but I get into the work quickly each morning. I write 5-800 words every day in about an hour, which is 10-15,000 words in a month of commuting, an astonishing result for part-time writing! I know that not everything will be good enough to keep, but I’m confident that a lot of it is.

I’m not a big fan of the “everything happens for a reason” school of philosophy. Sometimes shit just happens. I am, however, a great believer in education and in salvage. If something bad happens, take the lessons you can get from it, and salvage whatever you can from the wreckage. There’s nothing like disaster to teach you what’s essential.

I’ve salvaged five solid hours of writing time every week, and an ongoing commitment and involvement in my novel. It’s not what I had, but it’s not bad. Considering my progress, maybe it’s really all I needed.

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6 Responses to Salvage

  1. It’s amazing how much you can achieve in chunks of concentrated time. How nice of your husband to make that sacrifice so you can write, too.

  2. Great job!! You take time where you can get it. And good for your husband, giving you your space.

  3. Virginia Wolfe would understand. I believe it is in A Room of One’s Own where she talks about how women made the novel their own, because the demands of daily life restricted them to writing in installments.

  4. Commitment is the key. Good for you.
    And hi, I’m stopping by from the campaign trail. Nice to meet you. 🙂

  5. Way to go Elizabeth, you’re an inspiration as always!

  6. Someday I’m going to have to read that. I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t a male and a female way to write based on brain structure. I’m not talking about subject or style here, but about process.

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