Sunday, April 29, 2007

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing



Last week I wrote a grand total of 6 pages. Eeek. Part of the problem was that I always have a hard time getting back into a book after a prolonged absence. But my main problem was just…life. A power outage and dentist visit; bounceback from a slime ball diet pill spam spree that took me all day to clear up (one is tempted to learn Urdu simply so one can better communicate with today’s technical assistants); a prolonged mother-daughter visit to the eye clinic; a graduation dress to be picked up; a senior prom to be primped for; the daughter at Yale who called and said, “What would you say if I told you I was thinking about going to medical school after I finished law school?”

And no, that’s not a picture of my car. That’s my daughter’s car. (She didn’t get hurt.)

Some writers seem to be better at turning all this off than I am. I’ve heard of many romance writers who shut their office door and tell their kids, “Unless it’s arterial blood or the house is burning down, interrupt me and you die.” I’ve heard of literary writers who leave their dinner guests at nine o’clock and go upstairs to write, and of prolific superstars who sit with their backs to the sea while on holiday and pound away on their laptops. Maybe if I could do that I’d be on the NYT bestseller list by now. Maybe.

But I can’t rearrange my priorities like that. My life—and the lives of my loved ones—are what’s really important to me. Somehow, the book will get written. But a life without the sun on my face and the sight of the sea and the fragrance of an antique rose would be immeasurably poorer. There’ll never be another senior prom. And sometimes children need to hear (over and over and over again), “I’ll support you whatever you decide to do. I just want you to be happy.”

Then again, the crumpled car, the power outage, and the non-native English speaking support personnel I could have done without…

4 comments:

Steve Malley said...

Hey, you still got six pages done. Some days, life intrudes and a small toe hold in the work is still a win.

Chap O'Keefe said...

My office door is seldom shut -- just when I play music while I work which I think might disturb others, or when a noisy dot-matrix printer is in operation. (Does anyone other than me still use one of these?)
Nonetheless, I always feel guilty that I'm letting the writing life get in the way of Real Life. I look with despondency at the state of the gardens and various pieces of fading/failing paintwork. I tally the figures and realize to engage tradesmen would cost me far more than I could earn from fiction writing in the equivalent time involved.
That said, I would never take a laptop on holiday or walk out on a social occasion to produce the next thousand words. And yes, I curse silently but mightily when "emergencies" like car prangs interfere. A woman managed to sideswipe my wife's car in an otherwise empty parking lot a while back. The offender was that rare soul who had the decency to leave a note under a wiper blade and admit her liability. So it cost nothing . . . except the inconvenience of multiple phone calls to hard-to-reach insurance companies, several trips to repairers, alternative transport arrangements, etc, etc. I wouldn't like to put a figure on the time lost in pages.

liz fenwick said...

Life is good even when its bad. Six pages is great. This week will be better.

Farrah Rochon said...

All I can say is eek! Bask in the joy of those six pages and hope that things are better this week!