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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Writing Time and Time to Live: the same thing?

We writers have a conundrum that is our life-blood and our life-long bane: how much time can we reasonably spend writing each day?

If given carte blanche, our “job” would be to write, read, correspond w/book journalists (some might call them “compassionate critics of my books”), and go on literary tours that take us to major cities and small towns across our home country and every country in which our books have been translated. And what’s more… okay, stop!

Wait a minute. Is this what all writers want, or just me? Honestly, it must be somewhere in between. But even as a somewhere-in-between notion, we’re talking the second conditional for 99.999% of writers. Yet that’s still me I’m talking about. So let me talk about this, The Writing Life, as a Way of Seeing.

You must understand that this life I’ve proposed in not so far fetched, even in the real time of working for a living, being married, contemplating buying puppies (two sausage dogs, bitches, great companions, though sometimes noisy), and moving to yet another country (my fourth in 7 yrs).

Here’s how this The Writing Life works (for me): I’ve long-ago ditched the concept of “carving out time” to write, read, love, travel; instead, I’ve carved out time to “make a living” in between writing and reading and writing-about-reading, and travel and love and thinking about the puppies. My world is mostly a fictional world, lived inside my head while I walk, while I eat, while I talk with friends, while I read, while I fuck (hey, you never know when a great idea will pop up), and, especially, while I make a living.

Let me clear on this one point — Nothing gets in my way of this … except when I cross the street, wherein I take time to look both ways.

I do this — all of this — successfully because at the time I am living outside my present writing project, I’m actually allowing the writing project to live inside my everyday life. And when I’m inside my writing project, I feel some of the way through it by negotiating with my memory of life outside the writing project (present, past, past perfect, and even the future tense). Stay with me here, because this concept is not so difficult ….

Eudora Welty spoke glowingly of being receptive to her world when she wrote, and taking whatever happened in her day — verbatim events and speech, or metaphorical or as fictional constructs based on the former — for use in her fiction. It didn’t matter what these were: dialogue, scene, place, gesture, group dynamics, memories or dreams or anecdotes or jokes told by people. All of this could be used at will or discarded if useless. And … this is the best part, as I brought Welty’s idea into my own writing life … all of what lands in my net can be changed to suit whatever I need it for to make my story good, better, and the best my abilities can make it after draft, re-draft, third draft, fourth, fifth and onward until every written word makes perfect sense for its position and holds true to the world of its creation and the story for which it lives.

That’s the long and short of this concept. The only adjustment to it is how much you want to continue interacting with the “real” world in place of the “fictional” world where you are happiest (or happy-ERRR, if that helps soften the disconnection with so-called society that you might think I’m proposing; which I am; sort of).

The one drawback to this The Writing Life concept is that it’s terribly selfish to most of the outside world. On the other hand, if you don’t want much to do with the so-called outside world, then this concept begins to look better and better. For one single example, I give you TELEVISION. I gave up TV nearly seven years ago. In that time I’ve been more creative, more dynamic, more ME, and more productive than I had been for 25 years previous to that conscious decision to kill the machine that spews out mindless mush. I have no guilt over it’s murder.

The only time I need to compromise with this The Writing Life is when I’m spending time with my wife, us two alone, time for each other, time set on our own private terms, time for which we don’t need to negotiate or compromise because this TIME takes place on the go and in-between and over-and-back-on-time; this is time that I truly cherish because, without it, I might just leave the real world for the fictional altogether.

Which, on the face of things, can be scary. But let’s face it, for a writer, there’s not much else we want to do anyway.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.


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