I sometimes read about authors who say they require a perfectly silent room maintained at precisely 68 degrees, with trash bags taped over the windows and a white-noise machine in the corner to write, and I think, ‘Who are these people, and do any of them have kids?’
This is a quote by Jennifer Weiner in a recent New York Times piece on authors and their use of Twitter. I liked it a lot and have often wondered the same thing.
For me, writing is messy process, accomplished within the spaces of my life. I am often asked about when I write, and my answer is always the same:
Whenever I can.
Sometimes that’s four glorious hours on a Saturday afternoon, sitting in a bookstore or the library, completely undisturbed. That was supposed to happen yesterday, in fact, but life somehow got in the way.
Sometimes it’s the last fifteen minutes of my lunch break before my students storm the classroom.
Sometimes it’s between the hours of 4:30 AM and 6:00 AM, when everyone else in my house (including the dog) are still asleep.
Actually, it’s that time a lot.
But sometimes it’s the seven minutes of solitude that I have while my wife is giving our daughter a bath. “Seven minutes,” I tell myself. “Just write three good sentences.”
If you love to write, even seven minutes can be a blessing.
Should be a blessing.
I actually worked on my second novel, Unexpectedly, Milo, during the birth of my daughter (before everything went to hell and my wife ended up with a C-section). With a laptop on one side of the delivery room and my wife on the other, I rolled an office chair back and forth between the two as her contractions came and went.
When she was pushing, I was sitting by her side, holding her hand and encouraging her.
When she was resting, I was revising a section of the manuscript.
And my wife didn’t mind. She knew that the sale of that book meant that she could stay home with our baby for the first couple years of her life.
So I write in the spaces of life. I grab moments whenever I can.
Too often I meet a would-be writers who tell me that they are waiting for a sabbatical from work, summer vacation, or the kids’ graduation before they begin writing.
I once met an eighty-six year old woman who told me she had an amazing story to tell that would make a great memoir, and someday she would write it.
“You’re eighty-six,” I said. “What are you waiting for? The clock is ticking, and it could stop at second.”
She didn’t appreciate the comment.
But I suspect that she won’t ever write her story (if she’s even still alive), nor will the people waiting for sabbaticals and vacations and for the kids to fly the coop. If you love to write, you need to write, and if you need to write, you will do it whenever and wherever you can.
Sure, it would be nice to have a soundproof room where my daughter’s inexplicable request that I teach her dolls to share goes unheard, but writing is messy.
At least for me it is. And I suspect for many other authors as well.