Time to Write

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Ellen's picture

As the smoke clears after another successful National Novel Writing Month, I have a new unfinished novel on my desk. I am truly tired of working on it, but it is not yet complete. How can I re-invigorate my interest in the plotting and writing of this novel? Is it possible to be rich in time to write but poor in quality time to write?

A friend of mine is friends with the author Jonathon Lethem who wrote, among other things, Motherless Brooklyn (fantastic book!). My friend shared with me what Jonathon told him about writing his latest book, Chronic City. Jonathon had been so busy working on articles for various magazines that he had to squeeze his noveling into tight places. He found himself really looking forward to that special time when he could work on his new novel. The time he spent with that novel was glorious. And, of course, he finished it.

I should be so lucky. I have oodles of time on my hands. That is why I struggle to finish my latest novel. I have given myself way too much time to write! Nothing else is pressing on me like the thought of finishing this novel. It has become a living, breathing, nemesis lying there on the desk taunting me. I have too much wiggle room. I can ignore that taunting pile of words for a while. I can go for a walk, clean the house, or go to a doctor’s appointment because I have plenty of time to finish the writing of the novel. But it is still on the desk, open and gaping awkwardly, when I get back.

When I do sit down to work at last, it is a painful, thrashing process followed by an idle doodling period during which the Spider Solitaire (Four Suits level) comes out and wastes an hour of my time (I can always get back to my novel later because I have the rest of the afternoon!) and eventually, by the end of the day, I have a disrupted writing session at best, and a non-existent writing session at worst. I have begin to feel that there is not enough quality time in the world to finish this book.

I have a love-hate relationship with this lack of structure. Today, I am loving this unstructured time. I can relax. My anxieties about where I need to be and at what time are gone because I need not be anywhere. I can breathe. I can meditate. I can read! (Whoa!) But with no structure comes no building, and only by building something do I feel productive, and without feeling productive, I am unhappy. Otherwise, I could just sit down and write some cool stuff, a neat idea, an incredible image and walk away and never think about it again, but that is not my style (unless you count my blogging =;-}). I must finish. Something.

I remember a not too distant past when an only slightly younger version of myself quit my job so I could dedicate my time to writing novels because I have wanted to be a novelist since I was five-years-old! What gives? I seem to have become lost in this Eden of Time to Write in which I find myself.
I am lucky that I do not have to write-to-order to make a living. But maybe I am also unlucky because I have lost the urgency I used to feel about writing. Maybe I should give away some of my excess time to regain the perspective that novel-writing time is precious time for what I love to do. (And writing on spec gives you that external pressure to keep writing and thereby training for the novel marathon.)

Hey, Jonathon! What were the names of those magazines you were writing for?
__________________________
Ellen
Ever learning, Everlasting