Hello and welcome to the conversation!
In Part 1, we heard the answer to a question posed by P.A. to her fellow writers.
When you write, how do you set aside the rest of your day’s events, stresses, and emotional tugs?
Honestly, I think this is the hardest part of writing. Writing is hard; washing dishes is easy. Writing is hard; reading emails is easy. Writing is hard; letting myself get distracted by my own and others’ emotions is easy-peasy. Setting aside those other tugs is particularly tough in the early stages of a ms., but gets easier as the ms. develops a life and drive of its own. I don’t feel the tug so strongly when the characters are in high gear.
But stuck moments still happen. If I don’t know how Erin Murphy, the protagonist in my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, is going to respond to Rick Bergstrom – the hot farm guy she met in the first book – after a fabulous evening with Adam Zimmerman, the geeky guy from her college days who is geeky no more – then I take that problem with me to the kitchen sink. I’m training myself – it’s a work in progress — to not let my mind wander, to stay focused on the story problem. Sure, sometimes you have to let it wander – sometimes it just does – and sometimes that’s when story problems solve themselves. But I’ve learned that the odds of solving the problem increase if I keep at it – plus it’s a lot easier to get back to the page when the dishes are done if I never really left it in my mind.
Love, love, love how Marie uses her daily life to give to her characters: give them emotions, hobbies, conflicts, interactions. That’s a great way to strengthen our characters and stories.
Agatha Christie famously said in her autobiography that at a certain point, she “changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of the professional which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” Amen, sister.
(Marie, you iron? Come on over!)
The challenge of writing has always been the time. When I first started to write I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I wrote when I had energy. Then I wrote three books in ten years, but didn’t have the energy to market them. After breast cancer I decided I could not wait a moment longer. I went to Africa with my two best friends on my recovery adventure and while there I flew with a young pilot who became my muse. I wrote for two weeks in Botswana and then another six when I came home to finish, Into the Bush Under African Skies.
My husband thought that I had lost mind.
That was the first mind-losing experience.
The second happened a little over six weeks ago when I wrote a book about Christian Grey. It took two weeks of intensive reading and then one morning he just started talking to me in my head. I knew I could write about him. The next six weeks I wrote him out of my head to finish, The Real Christian Grey.
I don’t think it is good idea to do this but compulsion overruled reason.
I gave up doing a lot like having long conversations with anyone. I was surprise when I checked my bills that I actually paid them. The only thing I did semi-religiously was cook dinner, but sometime I would split after dinner and come up to the penthouse in my condo and write.
I don’t look forward to another mind-losing experience . . . at least not for another five years.
How do I set aside the day’s events, stresses, and emotional tugs? The short answer is, “I don’t.” I do find time in my life to write, but as much as I try to give writing a higher priority, it just never works that way for me.
On a regular basis someone asks me how I find time to write. They ask me because in addition to writing and teaching part-time, I am a family person. I think that’s clear even to someone just glancing at my life. Despite the joyful influence of Title Nine and the women’s movement (both of which I am eternally grateful for) I also possess some 1950’s housewifely impulses. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fairly level playing field at my house, or people would get hurt for not doing their share. But I make homemade soup, bring flowers in from the garden, have lunch with my husband, and run to school when one of my daughters forgets a notebook.
I rarely set aside any of those requests even when I try to. And as my daughters near adulthood, I know the days of notebooks and family dinners are quickly passing, and I know I won’t regret a minute of where I spent my minutes.
So, I write in those spaces between driving them to school and hitting Costco. (Since I write about hitting Costco, bulk shopping is technically research for me, right?) And the older my girls get, the more time I have to work. I try to use this time wisely because someday I may be a grandmother, and I hope to encounter this problem all over again.