Friday, September 23, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait
Laurel Corona
Special Announcement: Laurel had been hoping to travel as the enrichment lecturer on Silversea Cruise Line’s “Silver Cloud,” from September 25 through October 14, traveling from Lisbon to Athens, but her trip has been delayed. Follow her daily blog at
Balancing writing with a full time job as a professor at San Diego City College can be a daunting task. I also have a life independent of both those things, which includes tennis and other forms of exercise, time with my wonderful partner, and many miscellaneous things that give me joy.
It’s no wonder then that something very often has to give. These days it has been my writing. I got within seventy-five pages of finishing novel number five, THE INTUITIVE, sometime in early August, and I have gone no further.
My semester at San Diego City College started a month ago, giving me five new classes and more than a hundred and fifty students to get to know by sight and name if nothing more (I’m getting close to recognizing them all!) This week I have dealt with the onslaught of first papers and exams. Of course teaching has to come first. It is my livelihood, above all, but I am one of the truly fortunate souls who can say loud and clear that I LOVE MY JOB!
As an author, though, being too busy to write is a problem. I think most, if not all, authors would agree that we need the continuity provided by regular time to write. A book is like a carnival ride or a speeding train--it is best to hang on and keep going, and very hard to jump back on.
But no one, not even a full time writer, has the luxury of writing without distractions and outside demands. Read Caitlin Rother’s blog from last week if you want to get an idea how crazy it can get.
I accept and live with the fact that there are going to be times that a month or two may pass without any progress on something I care very much about. What is harder to deal with is the reluctance that sets in when I begin to have a little time again. The book starts to scare me. I’m reluctant to go back because writing is an emotionally wrenching and physically exhausting form of work, and in some ways it’s been a relief not to be able to do it for a while.
But those feelings pass, and I always discover that I love being home again inside my manuscript. “Hello,” I say to my heroine and all the characters around her whom I have come to enjoy, appreciate, and love. “I’ve missed you.”
I can almost hear them saying that they’ve missed me too. After all, they need me to unlock the door so they can come out and meet the rest of you when the book is published.
So here’s some advice for writers and would-be writers with busy lives:
Take another look at manuscripts you have let gather dust. They may not be abandoned, just on hiatus. Maybe you’ll decide they’re worth no more than a good laugh, and maybe you’ll find you are ready to re-engage now that you’ve gotten some distance and are (you can always hope!) a bit wiser as well.
If you can’t go into a project for long spells of uninterrupted time, it may be more productive to stick to editing of things you’ve already drafted. First drafts take a special intensity of focus and can’t really be done in a spare hour. Editing, however, can benefit from not staying with it too long, because it you aren’t fresh you’ll probably have to repeat the effort. Heavy editing (i.e. substantial rewriting) is more akin to drafting than to lighter editing, but nevertheless, I’ve found that once a scene is written, even if I have only an hour I can get some very circumscribed heavy editing done.
And advice for every stage of the writing process and every writer out there: don’t beat yourself up about anything, ever. You are putting good into the world with every keystroke, and your work is a blessing.


Marjorie Hart said...

Thanks, Laurel, great advice! Have a super trip, too!

Sky of Red Poppies said...

Great advice, Laurel. Thanks. This is just what I needed to keep on working on my next novel, The Moon Daughter, before it gathers too much dust.

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