The Cost of WritingPosted: November 16, 2020 Filed under: Creativity, Writing, Writing Process | Tags: Writing Life, Writing Process, Writing to be Read 5 Comments
Many of you authors out there are like me. You know what it feels like to feel an idea wiggling its way to the surface of your brain and popping up its head when you’re right in the middle of cooking dinner or in the middle of a project, or you’re two hundred miles from nowhere on a camping trip. You know what it’s like to feel that need to drop everything and run to put words on the page, or screen, as the case may be. You may know what it’s like to be on a roll, in the middle of a vital scene for your book, and have to stop and set it aside, because you have an important engagement to attend and you can’t show up looking like you haven’t slept for days, even if it is true.
Let’s face it. Writers write because they have a innate need to express themselves. We didn’t ask for it, but it is there. We didn’t choose it, although we have chosen not to ignore it in our younger days, when ignoring it was still an option. Writers need to write as much as they need to eat, sleep or breathe. (Probably more than we need to sleep, since writing often takes the place of sleep on many nights.) This needs stems from our creativity deep within us and is as much a part of our inner mental beings as water is to our physical beings.
When I was getting my M.F.A., I had an instructor who was a binge writer. When she was done with the prewriting and was ready to write her story, she would shut herself in her office and not emerge until it was done, be it days, or even weeks before she had the first draft of the story out. She said that her family members all knew better to disturb her when the door was closed, and she wouldn’t come out, except maybe to tend to urgent bodily functions. That was her writing process, and it was effective, because she was publishing and selling her books. But there was a cost. She was on her second marraige because her first husband hadn’t put up with her crazed writing frenzies, and frankly, I was amazed that her current husband and family did.
That’s one of the prices that we pay for following our innate urges and releasing our creativity. Human relationships often suffer. I know there have been times when I have gotten up in the middle of a family get-together, and pulled out my laptop to start typing away because an idea struck me, or I suddenly realized what really happens in a scene I’ve been working on. My family members may have thought I was being extremely rude, and I guess I was, but they didn’t understand about the idea or thought that was nudging away at me to get it down NOW. Those ideas are fleeting, and if I don’t get them down when I have them, they may abandon me and not be there later.
I never go anywhere without my laptop. It goes on camping trips and vacations, even to the laundry mat or out to dinner. I write while traveling in the car, even though I know it makes me car-sick. At a memoir workshop I took a few years back, we were asked to read aloud something that we had written. Everyone else came with sheets of paper in hand, printed out with what they intended to read. When my turn came, I paused to make sure the correct work was on the screen with an explanation that “My life is in my laptop.” That brought a few laughs from my fellow workshoppers, but you know, there is a lot of truth in those words.
Writing is my world. I am passionate about it. And I’ve missed more than a few outings with friends and family, jeopardized my day job by writing late into the night when I had to work the next day, let my grades suffer to get the words just right, and missed out on countless hours of sleep just to empty what’s in my head out onto the page. Writing is a wonderful outlet for creativity and self-expression, but as all good things usually do, it comes with a price. I’ve paid that price time and again, and never thought that it wasn’t worth the cost. So, how much are you willing to pay to be a writer?
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I’m sure the psychologists would tag it as work-a-holic with some other sub elements. Writing is not that controlling of my life, learning is. I started writing December 19, 2014 and intend to wrap it up come the end of 2021. I currently have over 200 writes ranging from flash fiction to 9 novels to 5 documentaries.
I’m fortunate in that most of my writes flash in my mind in their entirety and there it sits until it is ready to be keyed in. The stories that are contrived require more work (thinking) and usually do not remain in my mind, they come and go. These stories may never be written and are not as “natural”, meaning, true to the soul as are the flash stories.
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Hi Val. It feels more like an obsession for me, but it’s all about choices. I choose to let my creativity dominate my activities. It’s great that you set clear goals for yourself and stick to them. I can’t even seem to stick to a word count at times. I would even go as far to say that writing preserves my sanity. My writing aspirations began in 1996, when I sold my first poem, and became more serious with the rise of the internet. If I were to ever just stop writing, I would be a lost soul with no purpose.
This is fascinating, Kaye. My life is also in my laptop. I used to try to work while travelling but now it just makes me feel to car sick so I listen to audio books instead. I approach writing in the same manner I approach everything else in my life, with orderliness and structure. I have set blogging times, working times and writing times. I also have family time and baking time as well as reading time. My days are all the same during the week and they all run to the same pattern. I would never stay up really late writing because that isn’t in my routine. There is something to be said for being completely obsessive about routines [smile]. This being said, yours is my last post for tonight because it is 8pm and my blogging time is finished for today.
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It’s interesting to see how others approach writing, Robbie. When I stay up writing, it is usually because that’s the only time I have left. I used to follow that routine regularly, reserving my writing for when everyone else was asleep. Now that all my kids have gone and I’m getting older, I’m finding sleep takes priority more and more. I’m having to rethink priorities and rearrange my schedule to accomodate changing times. But when that idea strikes me, I still have to get it down before another comes to take its place. I’ve been known to awaken in the night and start writing because an idea came to me in my sleep!
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That is marvelous, Kaye. I can understand your comment about sleep, I am already like that as my job is very draining. I can’t write at night but rather get up early to write.
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