The Creative Process (First of an occasional series)

One of the things I’ve been wanting to write more about is the process by which my books emerge.  Now seems like the time to do it, since I am not writing at the moment.  I have various ideas in my head about the next book but they need to percolate a little more before I begin again.  Anyway, I’m not ready to start at the bottom of another big hill just yet.  The view from down there is daunting.  On which more at a later date.

Of course, every writer is different, as this fascinating site attests.  One of my best friends is a brilliant writer who seems to wait until every last deadline has expired and then sits down and churns out a book’s worth of scintillating prose in about a week.  It seems awfully unfair.  (I wouldn’t mind, but what comes out is so good.)  Most writers depend upon a little routine, though.  This great series in the Guardian shows how obsessive some authors are about having everything just so before they sit down to write.

So here’s my tuppence worth (or two cents, depending on where you’re reading this): I get up at 5 a.m. each day and sit at my computer for two hours.  I chose that last turn of phrase carefully – sometimes there won’t be a great deal of writing done.  But I need to sit there and stare at the screen and try.  If  I don’t, the book won’t get written.  Some mornings I’ll find myself going gangbusters and will be gnashing my teeth when it’s time to stop and wake up the children.  Other times (more frequently) I can’t wait for seven o’clock to roll around so I can switch back to my other life.

So if you’re contemplating writing anything, my advice would be to set aside some time every day to devote to the effort – preferably the same time each day, or else you will find ways of avoiding the commitment (people can be very creative about avoiding being creative.)  The reason I get up at 5 is that we’re busy people and it’s the only time that I know I won’t be distracted by anything else.  Thankfully, I don’t get client calls at 5 a.m. (I’m sure some attorneys do.)

With the exception of occasional weekends, I never write at any other time.  In the evenings I’m too tired and there is too much junk in my head from the rest of the day.  Lucky I’m a morning person, I guess.  Of course, I will find myself thinking about the book and my characters throughout the day, but there is rarely a temptation to sit down and write anything.

Although it can be frustrating, there’s actually something strangely liberating about knowing that I only have two hours a day to get this stuff done.  I wrote full-time for several years, and when one has the luxury of the whole day to write, one’s inclination is always to go and do something else instead.  When I sit down at 5, by contrast, I am (usually, anyway) focused and determined to give my all for those two hours – with a couple of much-needed breaks to make coffee, of course.  It takes a long time for a book to emerge, of course, but I don’t know that that’s a bad thing.  I finished my second novel in eleven months, and it shows.  I’ve been regretting it ever since.  What’s the big rush?

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