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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Five Things You Hope Your Readers Never Find Out About Your Creative Process

 Ah the glitz and glamor of the life of a professional, fulltime writer!

From the time I was a child--fourth grade, to be precise--I knew I was going to be a professional writer. I knew because this is what all my teachers told me. Granted, there was some earlier confusion with my third grade teacher because I thought she said RIDER and I remember being flattered but wondering how the heck she knew I loved horses and went riding whenever possible.

By fourth grade however, my teachers were enunciating more clearly, and I got the message. Oh. I was going to be a WRITER. Not nearly as exciting, but okay. They seemed so very sure, I just figured they knew.

I pretty much envisioned this  writing career as me living in a castle by the sea and wearing a peignoir much of the time. Obviously some writing would take place...but I was still perfecting my penmanship on those long rectangular sheets of paper with the blue dotted-lines, so the mechanics were vague.

By the time I hit college I understood quite a bit more about how writing and the publishing biz worked. By then I had mastered handwriting (yes, I was still working longhand) and I preferred men's silk pajamas to peignoirs, but the rest of it...yes, I confess I did still believe that ultimately I'd be working in a castle by the sea. Candlelight and gauzy draperies figured largely. Possibly also harpsichord music.

The reality is a bit different. Actually a lot different. For sure I thought I would have more free time--even if only to accomplish such things as laundry and paying bills. I thought I would be writing one, maybe two books a year. I imagined I would only be writing and that other well-paid people would be taking care of all the rest of whatever it was that might be needed. Handling my translation rights. Picking up my dry cleaning.  

Here are five of my writing realities. And I invite my writing colleagues to share their own writing realities:

1 - I haven't had a facial in six months. Actually, I haven't washed my face in six months. Okay, I exaggerate, but during that frenzied home stretch that every project eventually reaches...grooming is one of the lowest priorities. And sometimes even hygiene is at risk.

2 - I will eat anything that is not likely to kill me and takes no time to prepare. Last night I had smoked oysters and Japanese snack crackers. Yeah, right out of the tins in both cases. It was neither  glamorous nor delicious but it also didn't take long.

3 - I poured whisky, Irish cream, and half-and-half directly into the coffee machine yesterday. I've lost two pairs of reading glasses this week. I narrowly missed taking Tylenol PM in place of aspirin this afternoon.

4 - I sleep wearing wrist braces. The Velcro strips on the braces keep catching on my flannel sheets.

5 - I obsessively listen to the same CDs over and over--no, it's not harpsichord music--or sometimes the same CD, as in singular. You know how most writers are always talking about closing the door so their loved ones don't bother them when they're working? My dear SO closes my office door first thing in the morning, frequently joking-not-joking about locking me in. I believe the word "barricade" has been used. More than once.

So...a life fraught with peril if nothing else. Anyone else out there willing to share a little of the working writer's reality?


M said...

I am not a writer, but my bestie is. You've left out the phone calls at anytime o'clock to find a frantic writer on the other end "Oh My GOD! I've written myself into a corner and I don't know how to get out. What do I do now?" LOL While I know it's not all sunshine and roses, but as a reader, I can keep my fantasy of you lounging on the couch with your box of See's, dictating to a hapless secretary whilst barking orders at equally hapless minions.

Anne Marie Becker said...

For me, the eye-opener was the loneliness. While I "joke" that I could happily live as a hermit, there are times that I just have to talk or email with other people to get out of my head.

Oh, and the willpower. I need loads of it to get through a book, especially when I get close to a deadline. Nobody's standing over me with a whip, making me write, so I have to do that myself. Before getting into the writing business, I had visions of having a "handler" from my Big Publisher who would schedule my appearances, arrange my travel, make sure I was fed while on deadlines. I've learned to be my own handler. ;)

Great post!

C.S. Poe said...

Haha! This was amazing, thank you for sharing. I think I laughed so much because I connected so well.
Shower? No time!
Eat? Take out means someone else does the work, but it's expensive so... Cold rice it is.
I also get up at 3am to write. It's very quiet. Coffee tastes better at 3am... Weird?


Josh Lanyon said...

I try to be more stoic than that. :-D I wait to whine to you in the a.m. If you'll notice! :-D

Josh Lanyon said...

Anne Marie, I agree about the will power. It's really tough to stay focused and on target when the only one breathing down your neck Procrastination comes with a job that requires so much time on the internet.

Josh Lanyon said...

Seriously! I love those really quiet hours in the early, early morning.

Also having to eat is truly irritating. If you do it at the computer, you risk spills, but leaving the computer is like...ARE YOU CRAZY? I AM WRITING MY BOOK.


Unknown said...

Lol, yes on the eating thing. I suck at this. Then I get so hungry I sort of tumble slide down the stairs and have to pull myself across the kitchen floor in an army crawl. I have an upside down fridge, so it's a lot of effort to have to stand up and open the doors. Then, of course, there's rarely any instant yum. Except cheese. Cheese is like a writer's staple, I think. That and nuts. After stuffing my face with the first thing I can open with my hunger-weakened hands, I usually then have to flop on the couch and let my blood sugar levels stabilise. It's quite a process!

Rita said...

When I write I don’t generally cook cause I manage to forget and burn whatever it is. Even water. After days of being in a story I get what I call writers mouth. Can’t SAY a flipping thing. Can write it just fine. Some days can’t listen to music with lyrics because I’ll find that I’m typing the words. Like this morning wooo hooo witchy woman, see how high she flies. woo hoo witchy woman she got the moon in her eye
Fun post.

C.S. Poe said...

Right. Then you try to type one handed while eating, or just shovel it in so quick you forgot to taste it.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad the not eating thing isn't just me! Because, yes, that's a huge problem when one gets into writing. That, and getting dressed. Never mind actually washing the laundry, why bother getting out of the pajamas!

The other thing is still needing a regular job with a regular paycheck. Either full time or part time. There usually has to be some other form of cash flow coming in!

LIsa Q. Mathews said...

Wait, someone else wears those Velcro wrist things to bed, too? (Only when under deadline and totally desperate.) And I was really beginning to worry about my terrible diet--or lack thereof.

Julie Moffett said...

This was an absolutely fantastic post! Loved it and related to everyone!! ❤️❤️

Josh Lanyon said...

Kelly, I think you're right about the importance of cheese in the writer diet -- granted we can't admit this in public since it sets us up for critics who say things like...OH, NOW I get it. ;-D ALL IS EXPLAINED.

And exercise...I wish I could find a study somewhere that assures me not exercising for huge blocks of time is actually a best practice. ;-D

Josh Lanyon said...

Rita, I went through a phase when I could hear NOTHING with lyrics. I was struggling with burnout at the time, and any lyrics seemed to short circuit my concentration. I found classic music really centering. And I've got a "yoga" channel on Pandora that is also really relaxing to write to.

Josh Lanyon said...

About that yoga channel though. My nephew walked in one day and said, "It sounds like you're holding a funeral in here."


Well, I kind of AM, dude. I'm writing a murder mystery. ;-D

Josh Lanyon said...

C.S., I think this is why so many of my books are filled with cooking and eating delicious things. :-D

Josh Lanyon said...

Anonymous, yes. Having to work the craziness around a day job where you have to show up clean, sober and presentable is going to be a factor for most of us. But maybe being forced to stay in contact with the outside world is actually a good thing!

Josh Lanyon said...

Lisa, I woke up last night and apparently ripped one of the gloves off and hurled it across the room. I don't remember that happening, but there was the glove this morning and I went to bed wearing it. :-D

Josh Lanyon said...

Thanks, Julie! :-) :-) :-)

Mia Kay said...

Loved this post, Josh! Sorry to be late with the comment. I'm in edits {sigh}.

Food ... one friend still teases me about the week I had nothing but licorice and beer for dinner. (It was here, it was fast, and I didn't have to cook it.) I've since learned to keep a lot of yogurt in the fridge. A lot - the grocery store clerks are starting to look at me funny.

I write in the living room - or I would never see my family. However, they are now used to "huh?" being a regular part of my vocabulary. I can block out everything but what I'm writing. But I do love music when I'm on my own in the house (or sometimes I use earphones when I'm not on my own.) It helps me focus.

My husband is beginning to joke-not-joke about my pajamas. I seriously need a haircut. And I was proud of myself last Sunday for FINALLY clearing the remains of Christmas from our dining room table. Laundry day is now determined by when I run out of underwear.

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