Monday, June 28, 2010


I feel like I'm at the end of a movie, where there's a bunch of people standing in the sunlight just in front of the entrance of some cave. They've been there for hours, days, weeks, waiting to see if the person who went in--young, foolhardy, heart full with some crazy mission--might possibly come out. And they've just given up hope, they're shaking their heads and beginning to disperse. And then there's a rumble of something, a shift in the air, and the person bursts through the earth--older, wiser, and covered in some crap-like substance--into the joyous awaiting day.

I finished my revision. It's been a month of me sucking down Diet Dr. Pepper and Powerade, eating microwave popcorn, and twitching. I've come out from under the earth to discover that there's a world with sky. Except there's no one waiting at the other side of the cave for me, other than annoyed people to whom I owe emails and phone calls, the guy who does collections for our sewer water bill, the cats, who still think I should be working on my lecture, and my editor, waiting to give me more revisions. And instead of caked on crap-like substance, I'm covered in microwave popcorn goo, self-hatred, and an excess of adverbs.

I wrote the first draft this way, too--in some crazy fever dream. It was fun, at the time. This was less fun. And I have to wonder if there are people out there who can just write steadily--instead of working in these insane bursts, they just sit down and do their work every day and manage to pay their sewer bill at the same time.

Which, actually, I should probably go do right now.


  1. Congratulations, Anne, on emerging from your subterranean journey, boon in hand.

    I would love to hear about the working habits of some of the other authors. I tend to write in big bursts, too, with a week or two between to recover. (And by recover, I mean dig out from dirty laundry, dirty dishes, so that I can rot my mind for days with computer anagram games and Law & Order re-runs.)

    Burst-writing has its advantages; but it is wearying for me and those around me.

    The year that I was most productive was when I met with another writer every day our kids were in school. We didn't discuss our writing; we just enforced two full hours of BIC time for each other. (It helped that the other writer was a control freak who refused to give me any wiggle room.) That said, while I breezily and happily produced many, many, many pages. The product was a little too breezy--and now I am having to invest lots of angst time to give the book necessary weight.

    I have been re-reading Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Lots of smart, fantastic, useful stuff here. But, Tharp doesn't seem to leave much room for paying the bills, cleaning the toddler effluvium, doing the laundry, staying connected with friends and family.

    So, how do writers do it? Outside of Aesop's world, who wins, the tortoise or the hare?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. You probably haven't even seen the new Top Chef. Criminal.

  4. Ditto, Anne. You just described my process for every Hamline packet and I'm sure it won't be any different once I graduate. But (so far) my husband is always standing there in the light when I come out of the cave.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Deadlines are great - for water bills, too. But I have found over the years that I need to fine-tune my routine, according to circumstances. Right now early morning is my most creative, non-judgmental part of the day, so I try to use it. I told a friend last night who is struggling to get his article written, an article no one cares about - yet, that when desperate I use a timer, and don't let myself out of the chair until it rings.

    Looking forward to your reading of this novel, Anne.

  7. Like Claire, I've found I have to be flexible about setting a routine. Sometimes I'm a tortoise, sometimes a hare. Usually it's stuff going on in my life that forces a change in work routine, but sometimes the project itself has a different rhythm. The total BIC hours work out to be pretty much the same, though.