Alt Text: A photograph of a sculpted frog sleeping next to an alarm clock.
Note to readers: This post is part of a series of letters between me and my friend and author Lauren Faulkenberry. I publish our letters here on my blog, and she also publishes our letters on her blog. You can read all of our letters here. Check out Lauren’s latest novel, the first in her Bayou Series.
I was always under the impression you wrote every day, and I was always astounded, wondering how on earth you found time to do so with all the other balls you juggle. I’ve tried and failed at being one of those uber-dedicated writers who rolls out of bed at the crack of dawn in order to write before work.
I’m barely functional before 9 AM as it is. Forget trying to string words together in an elegant way. Forget writing snappy dialogue and creating a surprising yet believable plot arc. Most mornings I catch myself putting my cell phone in the fridge and attempting to put my coffee into my purse. Complex thoughts are not happening and nothing I say should be recorded in digital files or otherwise.
And writing when I get home from work? Nope. I wish I had that boundless energy, but after working all day at an exhausting job where I have to pretend to be an extrovert, I am way too tired to write before bed. By the end of my work day, my brain is so fried that I forget basic human tasks like, Put your pants on before you go outside. Last night after watching an episode of Mr. Robot to unwind, the fella sat up straighter, illuminated by epiphany, and tried to explain some key element in the plot twist we’d been stumbling over. I placed my hand on his arm and said, “You’re going to have to explain all of this to me again tomorrow,” because I seriously couldn’t understand any of the words coming out of his mouth. (Yes, I know the plot is quite convoluted anyway, but you and I read and write books that have complex plots. This is not something we are baffled by. Words are not something we have a shortage of.)
Sometimes I write on weekends, when the laundry and cooking and cleaning doesn’t take over. So I know what you’re asking: When the hell do you write?
Having a deadline helps. Hey, this novel needs to be finished by Dec 31. Ready, set, GO. When that happens, I start carving out time before and after work. (Having a seasonal job helps too, leaving me unemployed for a least a couple of months that I can then devote to writing a book because HEY I have to be doing SOMETHING so it might as well be what I LOVE. Right? Honestly, I’ve been putting off this third book. I don’t really know how to start it. But after your last visit, I know I have to. That’s why it’s great when we set aside some time to visit each other, on our opposite ends of the state. That’s why it’s so important to have a writing partner, and that’s why I’m so glad we collided at that retreat all those years ago. Now that we’re starting this new adventure, I have a renewed sense of urgency to get back to the writing desk. It’s like exercising—I miss it when I’m not doing it, and I feel better when I’m doing it, so why do I let myself fall off the wagon and blame it on all the things I mentioned above?
But enough whining. We have books to start and books to finish. We have lots of books in us, but we have other things in our lives besides novels. We’re still finding the balancing point, and that’s okay. I didn’t get a copy of the Life instruction manual, and I don’t think you did either. So far, we’re doing all right writing it for ourselves.