Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Writer's Life--Writing Activity

At Avalon Authors, we like to share with you our view of the Writer's Life. I was thinking about this because there's a tendency to assume that a writer's life is fundamentally different from the rest of humanity. On first glance, a writer's life seems to have a shine to it--you set your own schedule, give book talks in front of groups, sign books at a local bookstore, or see your name on a bestsellers' list. Kind of glamorous. A little celebrity around that. If you're a huge name in the business (say, J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts), then your life definitely has the glitz.

But thinking about the writers I know (even Nora Roberts!), their lives are like anyone else's. They have children, spouses, friends, aging parents or pets and other lively people and companions for whom they care and with whom they spend time. There's volunteer service and church, making dinner and housework. Home repairs and lawn maintenance. Just like a non-writer.

Some writers write for a living; writing is their day job. Most fiction writers have a day job other than writing. They put in the 40 or 50 hours a week on that job and add the writing in after hours. Just like a non-writer.

Where the difference really happens is in the Choices.

Where one person may spend an afternoon on a hobby, a writer is sitting at the computer, writing. One person may watch television in the evening; a writer may be researching a new setting. One man may be driving along reviewing in his mind the next stop on his list of calls; a writer may be focusing some thought on a plotline (I plotted my novella "Carousel Magic" driving to work one morning). One mom may bake cookies for her son's school party; the writer mom buys cupcakes from a bakery and spends the saved time creating a character's background. One person stands in the grocery line, bored with the wait; the writer is watching the people and catching conversations that may spark an interaction in a book.

In essence, the writer and the non-writer have the same hours in the day and have to attend to the same basic functions--food, housing, clothing, childcare, friends and family. They part ways when, given all the possible options for spending time after the essentials, the writer will begin to choose a writing activity. Little by little, the writing activities become a significant part of the day and other activities, less compelling, fade away. Little by little, tasks seen previously as essential, no longer are. The writing activities take on the urgency of "essential". The non-writer has transformed into a Writer.

To be a Writer, writing activities must intrigue you and interest you to the point where you start replacing what you now do with a writing task. As a Writer, any free time absorbs something about writing and as time passes, you consciously let go of unnecessary tasks and activities to feed the inner urge to create story, to compose drama, to share your knowledge or experience, to write.

Perhaps the outside of the Writer's Life has many of the same qualities as anyone else's, but the inner landscape? Oh, my. That's where you'll find the essence of what makes a person a Writer.


Sandy Cody said...
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Sandy Cody said...

Well said, LaVerne. I realized reading your post that I'm somewhere in between "writer" and "non-writer". I all too often make the non-writer choice, especially when I'm having trouble making the story come alive. I think that place in the middle could be called ... dare I admit it ... laziness.

Beate Boeker said...

Thank you for that interesting post, LaVerne. I often write a bit when my plane on business trips is delayed. When I told a friend so, she said, "Everybody hates being delayed, but you just sit down and write happily." I had to laugh when she put it like that - but that's just the difference you meant!

Loretta C. Rogers said...

LaVerne--As I was reading, I thought about all the 'non-essentials' I've learned to ignore just so I can write. You hit the nail on the head--I write everywhere--in check-out lines, on the back of our motorcycle, and it's scary when I drive into my driveway and realize, I'm home and don't remember the trip because I was writing--inside my head. Thank you for this thought evoking post.