Liars Club

How? When? Where?

by Simmons on November 16, 2010

in Advice for Writers,The Writing Life,The Writing Process

Burning Question: How do you find time to write?

During the day, Jonathan Franzen writes in a dark windowless basement on an old computer with no internet connection.

During the evening, Tillie Olson wrote in a laundry room in between ironing shirts.

I have written in a notebook during my train ride into work, on the back of an envelope while I was waiting at the doctor’s office, on a computer while my kids were napping in the room next door, their sighs and gurgles on the baby monitor providing occasional punctuation.

I built every novel I have ever written in tiny snatches of time, not large blocks of it.   Half an hour here.  An hour there.   Even if all I write is one good sentence, that’s an accomplishment.   And that’s how everything is written:  one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter at a time.

I have friends who write in journals every morning, friends who scribble on index cards during their lunch breaks.  Anyone who finds time to walk their dog, run on a treadmill, eat dessert, lay on a beach, bake a pie, or play a hand of poker can find time to write.   But anyone who finds themselves continually asking about the how, the when, the where of writing . . . . really needs to look deep in their heart and make sure there is a why.

Where there’s a why, there’s a way.

Kelly Simmons is the author of Standing Still (Simon & Schuster) and coming in February, The Bird House. Learn more at Kelly’s post is part of an ongoing series in which Liars each chime in on a burning question about publishing.  She is also a very responsible tweeter and a good facebook friend to have.

I might be writing in this photo. Who knows where my hands are?


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Deibert November 16, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I have already published two novels, but I have gone for a long stretch without hardly writing much at all, and it was frustrating.

I am a retired letter carrier and now I work three days a week and felt that the additional time would offer endless possibilities to finish one of the four novels in progress-all around 15,000 words, but alas, each time I attempted to continue, I just couldn’t get into the writing mode.

I received an e-mail from a writer friend telling me about the National Novel Writing Month contest which runs from Nov.1 to Nov. 30. One is supposed to churn out a 50,000 word seat of your pants novel in that space of time.

Naturally, I thought it impossible, but nevertheless, I decided to give it a go. Now, 16 days into the project, I have written 26,538 words and I am having great fun again. My fingers are literally flying over the keys and the plot and characters are developing so quickly.

I can’t wait to finish and finally get a chance to read my first draft before the editing part of the project commences in December.

I do most of my writing either before or after work, and on my days off, whenever I get a free hour or so.

All I can say to aspiring writers is to write, write and write. I’m averaging over 1650 words a day so far, but that will incerease when I finish today’s work. I have about an hour or so to write before dinner, so I better get busy.

Good luck to everyone who reads this post.

Kelly Simmons November 16, 2010 at 7:53 pm

To Larry and others: I forgot this was NaNoWriMo month! It’s a great way to kickstart the process for some people.

Catherine Stine November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am

Good post! I got a chuckle when I read about Jonathan Franzen’s self-imposed Netless “cell”. As for me, I shell out $ every month for membership in a writers’ space (Rather than a gym. Can only afford one, so I do exercises at home). I like being enclosed in a cubicle, yet being able to hear other folks peck away on their mss.

Steven Walker December 4, 2010 at 1:40 am

Hey Larry,
I used to be like you with several unfinished novels always sitting around waiting to be completed because I would get about 100 pages into each one and then become distracted by another “great” idea for a different story. The secret is to commit yourself to one story and finish it. If you put all the words in all your unfinished novels together, you’d almost be done. Congrats on the two you published.

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