Sunday, September 09, 2007

Thoughts on a long day of writing

Today's the first day I've had in a long time where I had no obligations of any kind. Until Laura came home from work, I didn't do anything but write, all day. It was nice. And frustrating. Did I mention I'm not a great writer? I'm working on it, but it's hard work. I spend a lot of time agonizing about little things, about how to describe things, how to make action happen, how to make dialogue sound right. And even when I'm done, it doesn't sound right. Usually, writing is a lot of work, but also fun. Today it was just work, and not really any fun. And did I mention the frustrating?

I have a mental picture of how a writer is "supposed" to work, and the way it's working for me doesn't match the picture at all. For one thing, I can't stop writing. Once I start, it takes me a while to get into the mindset, and it's a pretty fragile mindset. I understand that other writers can freely interrupt their work to read the news, approve blog comments, and do actual paid work. But I can't even answer the phone without breaking the writing trance. Oddly, a kitty jumping in my lap doesn't distract me; petting the cats has apparently crossed the line from volitional action to reflex action.

It's a poor carpenter who blames his tools, but I kinda wish I had a laptop for writing. I found myself wishing I could relocate to the couch or the comfy chair downstairs, instead of being stuck at my desk in my less-than-comfortable chair. I should mention I got this chair from a nun who was planning on dumping it in the trash. Think about that for a minute: five years ago when I got it, it was already so old and worn out that a convent was throwing it away. So I'd like to be a little more mobile. A laptop would also be nice because it wouldn't have my ten-year backlog of video games waiting on its hard drive to distract me; I could use my full willpower for writing, instead of having to direct it at not playing games. But a new computer isn't a financial reality for quite a while. Possibly a new chair, though. Or at least a less-used chair; we just bought new office chairs at the Artsgarden a few months ago, so I could probably bring one of the old ones home.

I think writing is actually harder than plumbing. For one thing, plumbing is more interruptible. I can stop sweating a pipe, answer the phone, and go immediately back to sweating pipe. It doesn't take any time to get my head back into plumbing. And I can think about other things while I'm banging on fittings with my wrench collection. Writing occupies 100% of my attention. There are also no standards for writing. I know if I'm doing bad plumbing. But with writing, you really don't know at the time if you're doing well or not. And if you're plumbing, you get paid every week (that's the oldest plumbing joke: you only need to know three things to be a plumber: hot on the left, cold on the right, payday's on Friday). It's entirely likely that I'll never get paid for writing. I still would rather be writing, though. I like the flexibility of it, the fact that the schedule is under my control. I can write at 3am if the urge strikes. I like the fact that the learning curve never slopes back down; you've always got the option of writing better, whereas I think I was learning one new thing per year for the last few years I was plumbing. And at no time in a writer's life is he likely to end up snaking someone else's effluent out of a drainpipe.

Sorry if I'm a wee bit o' the gloomy today. It was a hard day's work, and it took a lot out of me....

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