Monday, January 26, 2009

Wise Words on Writing, Part 2

Here are the other pearls of wisdom Heather King shared with me about her writing process (and the questions they raise for me):

I might spend an hour at my desk, another day I might spend eight, but in a way, I’m always writing, even while I’m asleep. I’m pondering, sifting, experiencing, observing, making connections.

I just spent 10 days in New England with my family, for example, during which I didn’t write at all. I don’t keep up with the news much, and when I arrived home I read something about NY Times reporter David Carr’s Night of the Gun, which others are apparently touting as “saving” the memoir and which I, after reading a bunch of stuff about it, decided was complete bullshit. With my pent-up energy I went into a kind of fugue state, and spent probably 15 hours writing a 1600-word piece about truth in memoir, which I sent off the next day to the first place that came to mind, the L.A. Times op-ed page, and which was promptly rejected because they’d already run a piece about the book two weeks before. Which was disappointing, but it was 15 hours well-spent: hours of absorption, challenge, and joy. The ideas I honed will stand me in good stead.

The point is, something moved—in me, in the universe. And though that might appear on the surface to have been an impulsive act, I’m very aware of and controlled about my resources and energy. I have a pretty strict discipline of prayer, Mass-going, exercise, etc., which is exactly what has given me the freedom to write about exactly what I want, and, I believe, why I’ve been able to make a living (amazingly, and however meager) these last few years from my writing.

I particularly love two things about this:

First, the idea that we're writing even when we're not, as our mind sifts through all manner of stimuli, connecting things in unexpected ways. And second, the idea of being aware and in control of our resources. I'm great at the first part--writing even when I'm not writing. But the discipline part drifts in and out of my life like the tide, which is a bummer because I'm SO much happier when I'm in some sort of good routine.

How do you find the best shape for your days?

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