Monday, December 15, 2014

Husband, Father, Grandfather, Deacon, Editor, Team Leader – and Writer

In On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts, Ann Kroeker and Charity Craig ask this question: To what extant have you arranged your space and time to honor your writing?

I joke with my wife that Billy Collins is one of two poets in the United States who makes a living from poetry. When she asks who the other one is, I tell her I can’t remember.

Expanding from poetry to writing in general, how many novelists actually support themselves by strictly writing? Likely more than you find in poetry, but it’s equally likely that the number can be counted – it’s not huge. James Patterson. Stephen King. Some romance writers.

The number is finite and knowable.

For the rest of us, we likely write whenever we can cram in a minute or 30 minutes or an hour. I write whenever I find a moment to write.

I've told the story of how my first novel, Dancing Priest, came to be written. for the first four years of its existence, it resided inside my head. Initially, I never intended to write it down. It started with a song I heard, and the image of a priest dancing on a beach. I developed the story as a mental narrative, and delved deeper into it once I started biking. A number of scenes in the novel were created and elaborated while I rode Grant's Trail in St. Louis. 

I was also doing a lot of traveling, including a regular monthly trip (sometimes more frequently) to Alabama. Airline flights and nights in hotel rooms afforded the time for writing. Two hotels in Oxford, Alabama, provided the physical space for the writing of Dancing Priest from 2004 to 2007, the mental and physical narratives overlapping during this time.

I started writing the story down in the fall of 2005. Hurricane Katrina, and getting my mother and aunt out of New Orleans, had something to do with it. Perhaps it was seeing the destruction of the place I was born and grew up. Whatever it was, it was Katrina that spurred me to starting writing the story down.

I immediately discovered that thinking a story in my head was infinitely easier than writing it down. The mental narrative included images – what the characters looked like, the settings, even the weather. The written narrative had to account for these things in words. The time required multiplied exponentially.

So I crammed it in whenever and wherever I could – early mornings, late nights, trips. There was no set time, because I was also a husband, a father (and soon a grandfather), a church deacon, an editor, an occasional freelancer – and I had (and have) a full-time job that, like most jobs, is something more than full-time. 

So to answer Ann's and Charity's question, I have no regular time to write. I have only what becomes available, or what time I can make available. So far, that "schedule" has allowed the creation of two published novels (Dancing Priest and its sequel, A Light Shining), the non-fiction book Poetry at Work, this blog, a weekly column at Tweetspeak Poetry, and occasional article for The High Calling. Come the spring of 2015, the time available will radically change – I'll be retiring form the day job sometime in April or May. 

But there’s a second consideration to that question asked by Ann and Charity – the idea of honoring your writing.

I could come up with a longwinded answer, but I think it’s tied to the time devoted to writing – I honor my writing by making the time for it.

I’ll ask you the same question – how do you find the time to write, and how do you honor your writing?

Photograph by Holly Chaffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Planes, Trains, Roads | Charity Craig said...

Glynn - I love your answer here. I think the way you have honored your writing is by making space wherever and whenever you can. And you have been so productive. I am looking forward to seeing the volume of work that retirement allows. You may need to "invent" a crammed-full schedule so you can trick your mind into scrapping for writing time! :)

L.L. Barkat said...

In the end, I have honored it by not being a writer anymore. Oh, I write, sure. But my particular kind of writing isn't the sit-down-and-do-it kind. It comes, it goes. And I don't want a career of it.

Sometimes it's about knowing what we don't want, as much as what we do want.

I enjoy promoting other writers and encouraging them in their own careers. Maybe I'm a writer-mentor, and that was made possible by being a writer for a long, long time. :)

Ann Kroeker said...

If we wait for time, we'll never start. As you know from reading the book, Glynn, I had to write in the midst of motherhood, and grabbed time in a similarly random fashion. Regular writing hours didn't work for me (some of my writing friends and some of my clients wake up before their kids and write in the wee morning hours, but I can't).

Even today I recorded a podcast about rescuing lost time that addresses this on a micro-scale, grabbing a few minutes in line at the post office to outline a blog post or think up a character description.

Bit by bit, bird by bird, word by word, we write in the snatches of time, no matter how sparse and scattered or generous and regular.

I'm looking forward to how you organize your retirement time, Glynn.

Martha Jane Orlando said...

Thank you, Glynn, for sharing once again how Dancing Priest came to be. I experienced a similar process in writing The Glade Series with regards to what was in my head and what actually ended up on the page; wrote it over three summers beginning in 2007 as I thought it would be impossible to work on during the school year when I was teaching. Looking back, I should have just grabbed any time I had to write during that year no matter how busy I was.