Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Are Writers Lazy?

I can remember the good old days, before children and a full time job, when I could spend the whole day doing nothing but getting ready to write. I'd wake up, get dressed, teach a class, maybe meet my hubby for coffee or something, and usually I'd be back at home before lunch with the rest of the day left "to write."

Now that I have so little time, I frequently try to remember exactly how I squandered three years in Arkansas and another six months in Livingston Parish. During my writing time I would stare out the window, pace through the apartment with ants in my pants, unable to sit at the desk, walk a few blocks to the florist to get a single flower for the vase on my desk, walk to the coffee shop for coffee, stop in the bead shop. . . Once I spent an entire afternoon in the car driving from gourmet store to gourmet stoere (few of these in Arkansas) looking for some kind of cheese I needed for a recipe.

I know some people would argue that all of these activities are necessary for the writer, that a poem is brewing inside of me even if I am not actually writing it down, that these types of activities are part of my education and so on. But I can't let myself believe that. I think I was being lazy. I would kill for that time now, those days when I would pussyfoot around until late afternoon and then finally drag out the notebook.

That line I always give about being a slow writer isn't evn halfway true. I waste a lot of time.

In my defense though, I feel the need to add that when I do have something going I drop EVERYTHING and devote myself to the poem.


At 2:55 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

Hey, that line about being a slow writer is my line! *lol*

Acutally, I really do share the same process and also devote all my time to the poem once it gets going.

At 8:34 AM, Blogger David Vincenti said...

In an NPR interview, Anne Lamott gave a great line: "I used to have all these rules about writing: It used to be I couldn't write if there were dishes in the sink; now I could write if there were a corpse in the sink!"

I think all writing habits ultimately boil down to sacrifice and fear. You have to sacrifice some social part of yourself for the solitary practice of writing, and you have to defeat the fear that this sacrifice might be wasted. It's easy when the muse is with you ("when I do have something going I drop EVERYTHING and devote myself to the poem"), not so easy when she's attending to other duties.

Lamott also suggests (as her father taught her, I think) that you can "train the muse" with good practice (write at the same time, same place, for the same duration every day). Sometimes works for me, sometimes not so much. In any event, I suspect the truly prolific do not have the shiniest stoves and most lint-free carpets.

Great stuff so far!

At 11:52 AM, Blogger . said...

Hey, you're supposed to count pacing, staring at the screen, throwing the yo-yo, as writing. It's all part of the work.

Myself, I've expanded the term to include feeling guilty, drinking, going for walks, doodling, and napping in the hammock.


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