Recently I read a tweet from Rick Mofina, a local mystery author, reminding his followers that writers must show discipline and write every day in order to be a success. I realize the truth in his words and I think about long stretches I've had where I've been able to hit the keyboard every day and produce, and believe me, those times are golden.
Recently I've been able to publish the first Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel, Blood Passage, complete the manuscript for the second, Marcie's Murder, and write the outline and about 20 per cent of the draft of the third book in the series, The Fregoli Delusion. I consider this to be pretty good output, but for the most part 2011 has been a difficult year to maintain the pace. Without getting specific, I’ve found that the world has a way of taking over your life despite your best efforts to resist. Those golden hours have been very scarce this year.
Perhaps worst of all in terms of time stealing has been the work necessary to market Blood Passage. Every writer out there with a book to flog knows what I’m talking about, especially when I say that this summer marked my first entry into the e-book universe and online marketing. Again, without getting specific, I can tell you I’ve opened up 25 different online accounts so far that are connected to the production and marketing of my book. Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest. A year ago I swore I’d never be dumb enough to do online banking. Are you kidding me?
But the brain has ways of compensating, and through experience I’ve learned to keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut, because while life is busy interrupting me it’s also revealing itself. If I’m observant, it may show me something resonant.
This week is a good example. Yesterday morning I couldn’t get anything done because I had to drive into town for an appointment, then make several other stops before I could come home. But by the time I walked out of the office after the appointment I had a full-blown protagonist and his environment expanding like a balloon inside my head, based entirely on what I’d seen and heard in the building while I was there. Then this morning I had to take the car in to have the winter tires put on. While I sat there waiting I borrowed some paper from the guy at the service desk and wrote an overview of the storyline around this character, realized it was too similar to a well-known crime novel I won’t name, tore it down and wrote a better one that I know will work. When I got home after lunch, I spent the afternoon online doing technical research to begin fleshing in the details. Next on the agenda will be the outline.
I’ve discovered that writing the actual fiction engages my brain differently than this other stuff. It requires deep concentration and emotional equilibrium. I’ve discovered, for example, that if I begin the morning by writing a blog post and commenting on other blog posts, tweeting on Twitter and all that other stuff, my brain sometimes finds it difficult to switch gears and slip into that semi-coma which produces pages of actual story. Perhaps it’s a question of different brain waves or something. If I can’t slip into that semi-coma, I’ll move sideways into background sketches or whatever I can do to contribute toward the overall construction of the story that needs to be written.
Writing for many of us is a compulsion. It’s something we have to do. When we can’t get at it, it eats us alive.
So to compensate, we do whatever it takes not to be defeated by life’s interruptions.