Liars Club

Those who can, must

by Gregory Frost on November 8, 2010

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

Time once again for a new Burning Question about writing and publishing. Check in often to see how we Liars respond. To see past answers to other Burning Questions, click on our For Writers page.  And if you would like to pose a Burning Question for our group of authors to ponder and post about, just shoot us an email or post a comment, and we’ll be happy to consider it!

Burning Question #13: How do you find time to write?

Here’s Gregory Frost’s answer to this question…

Hilarious, that.  Really, the burning question should be “How do I find time to write this blog thing?”  I’m in the middle of two novels at different stages of completion (and God knows, I hope they don’t “complete” in the Ishiguro sense of that word).
But…How do you find time to write?
The answer is simply: You do.

Take for instance, Dianne McKinney-Whetstone, the wonderful author of novels like Tumbling. She was once the keynote speaker at a conference at the University of Pennsylvania where I was teaching.  She described how she wrote her first novel. She was at the time a member of James Rahn’s invaluable Rittenhouse Writers’ Group in the city. It’s a good workshop, but by itself no guarantee of success.  Ms. McKinney-Whetstone got up at something like 5 a.m. every morning, went down into the cellar where she had a desk, and wrote for two hours. Her husband supported this endeavor by getting up, making breakfast, getting children ready for and off to school–taking care of morning duties that one traditionally thinks of as things that mothers do, so that she could write.

Every single day, for a couple of hours, before she got ready for her day job, she devoted herself to her craft.  Took pieces to the Rittenhouse workshop, went home, worked more, learned, improved, honed her skills.  And finally published to great acclaim.  She didn’t run off and self-publish a crappy first draft of a book because she was in too much of a hurry to bother with learning the craft of writing. She took her time, but she devoted her time; she put in her time.

Granted, that wouldn’t have happened if her partner hadn’t been willing to take on some responsibilities that gave her that time. If you have a sucky “I’m more important than your stupid little hobby” sort of partner, remember, all kinds of mushrooms grow in the wild and I don’t know how they got into his salad, officer.

Where do you find the time to write?  You find it in the morning. Late at night.  On your lunch hour.  I’ve done all of those.  I wrote my novel, Fitcher’s Brides, in ten months while working a 50-hour-a-week job. On my lunch hour I would wander up the hill to a small Catholic college that had a lovely garden with a labyrinth in it, and I would sit beside the labyrinth with a notebook and a pen and write for an hour, and when I got home, I would transcribe whatever I’d written into a laptop and then keep going, using that messy first draft to line up thoughts, images, progressions, scenes.  Frankly, I also gave up a lot of social time. I’d been studying aikido for ten years at that point, and I all but stopped training.  I significantly pared down my social life.  Going to a movie had to be a reward for having written. A lot of things became rewards for writing. That’s not a bad thing to do, either.  When you have a really good day writing, give yourself a reward for that.  Download some music. Buy a book. Have a scotch and a piece of exquisite dark chocolate.

There is no secret to it.  If you can’t make yourself carve out some time to write, then you aren’t going to write. You’re going to talk about the thing you plan to write “Real Soon Now” until people start moving away when you come into the pub.  Because writing is a craft to which you must apprentice yourself, the same as acting, painting, composing or playing music. Yes, there’s always one bastard over there in the corner who picks up a brush and just knows inherently what to do with that blank canvas. Yes, we all both want to be him and to murder him at our first opportunity.  For the rest of us, it’s a process of development and discovery. With the occasional chocolate at the end of the day.

Fitcher's Brides, a novelGregory Frost is the best-selling author of Fitcher’s Brides, a historical thriller set in the Fingerlakes of New York and based upon the fairy tale of Bluebeard. He is not a lobbyist for the chocolate industry, but would certainly be willing to accept any bribes.

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Kathryn Craft November 8, 2010 at 11:41 am

Having been married to a man who always referenced my writing (even paid writing) as my “volunteer work,” I LOVED the lol mushroom comment, Greg! I am so blessed to now have a husband who understands that writing chose me. Nice talking to you at the Coffeehouse last week.

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