5 for Friday: The Writing Life



As I approach the end of my MFA program (only 3 plus weeks
till I turn in my thesis!) I’ve been thinking a lot about the “writing life.”
Sure, I’ve had a writing life of sorts for many years now, but the one I am now
about to embark on will be quite different. I will no longer be protected by “the
bubble.” Deadlines will now have to be self imposed rather than teacher imposed.
I won’t have the constant, reassuring guidance from my favorite professors.  I will now have to be proactive about
maintaining my treasured writing community. These are all good things. Things I
am looking forward to. Truth is—I was always self motivated and thus I’m not too
anxious about the idea of creating my own schedule, my own goals, my own
deadlines. I did it before I entered the program and I know I can do it after I
graduate. It was nice, though, to have such a rigorous schedule—it was training
that taught me and shaped me and reminded me of how important it is to remain
consistent, to keep working, to move forward. The writing life. It means
something different to each and every one of us. How will mine develop as I
move forward? What will my day to day writing process look like? Feel like? How
will I create the perfect patchwork life—one tightly woven with family, friends,
work, and writing?

Here are 5 writers on some aspect of the writing life and
what it means to them:

 

“This
morning, my four-year-old was wearing shorts and a T-shirt with a cowgirl
outfit over it, which slid down her hips as we tried to cross Connecticut
Avenue. I have a great excuse for the fact that her hair wasn’t brushed—her mother’s
a writer.

Annie
Dillard says it takes five to ten years to write a novel. Some people do it in
a year, but some people can lift cars. I did have a struggle with this book, The Bowl is Already Broken, which is
more complicated and ambitious than my first. One strange complication was,
three years into writing about a woman who was pregnant and didn’t know it, I
was pregnant and didn’t know it! My editor says I’m the only woman who’s ever
gotten pregnant from writing. So life intervened in all its complicated ways….”

-Mary Kay
Zuravleff, Off the Page

“Some
days I find it a pleasurable experience. Some days I’d rather do just about
anything else. Every writer seems to need to develop his or her relationship to
the process. I know writers who write sporadically; in huge fits of
inspiration, and then nothing for long periods. I know writers who write in
pure agony one hour a day, which is all they can bear.”

-Michael
Cunninghan, Off The Page

“I
have no set routine for writing. I write every day if I can, and if I’m working
on a novel I try and get a certain number of words on the page before it gets
dark. And then, in the evening, if something has struck in my head, what
Berryman, in ‘Dream Song 29,’ calls ‘the little cough somewhere, an odor, and
chime,’ I tend to write poems. If it goes well I’ll still be sitting there at
three in the morning, rearranging words on the screen.”

-Nick
Laird, How I Write

“I have
lots of wonderful days. I have many wonderful days that are too quiet and
unsensational even to take note of. A very nice day would have work in the
morning and some accomplishment, however, small; an afternoon with my husband
or some outing like jogging or bicycling on country roads here in rural New
Jersey; a return in the late afternoon to work again; and maybe an evening with
friends in Princeton.”

-Joyce
Carol Oates, Off the Page

“I am
not a very disciplined writer, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say. But I guess my
feeling is that somewhere along the way, I seem to get things done. As long as
that keeps working without having to implement a schedule for myself, I’m going
with it. It’s possible that I write in some sort of fugue state that I then
forget. I have very little memory of sitting down to write—it all just happens
along the way. I’m not someone to use an example in terms of discipline.

I feel
like part of the reason that I love writing is that I’ll always feel young when
I start something or when I’m in the middle of something or when I finish
something. There was a point—I recall it very specifically—the point in college
when I had been writing pretty seriously and I had this understanding that this
was something I would never figure out completely and thus would always be a
challenge and a puzzle. And that really is still the way I feel about it. I can’t
imagine that’s going to change anytime soon.”

-Thisbe
Nissen, Off The Page

*

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2 thoughts on “5 for Friday: The Writing Life

  1. Kristan

    "I will no longer be protected by “the bubble.” Deadlines will now have to be self imposed rather than teacher imposed. I won’t have the constant, reassuring guidance from my favorite professors. I will now have to be proactive about maintaining my treasured writing community."

    Yuuuup. That was the hardest bit for me once I graduated from college. Especially since I had a boyfriend, a new puppy, and a work schedule thrown in too. And I was in a new city. All these transitions at once. I really feel that it slowed me down, but after 3 years (and a lot of work/schedule adjustments) I finally feel that I’ve hit a decent rhythm. The only way it could be better is if I didn’t have to work a job besides my writing… but there’s time enough for that.

    Congratulations, good luck, and thanks for the quotes! I particularly liked Michael Cunningham’s.

  2. bradley morrow

    congradulations.

    I know that feeling even though I have computer degree and 329 college hours in computers. I found i like writing better. One thing i try to do everyday is write something on the piece. one day it might be one line or even a word. Next it might be seven pages.
    two keep note book and pencil handy. that is how i wrote my dragondark book. to be to get inside each character see things from their prospective. Listen to music and let the scene write itself in your concious then write what you see.

    set the deadline on a flex plan. (this is when it should be done to around this time it should be done.) dont stress out.

    Treat each book as an adventure. If the trip seems a little rough get a friend to help you through the rough patches.

    find a spot in house or where you live that is quiet so you can relax.
    I let a friends read my rough drafts. To see if it is flowing and understandable. some of the best ideas come from a friend and piece of the puzzle that eludes you and the story.

    if the piece dont seem to longg enough or going where it should dont be scared to take a left or right turn. lol

    if you want to sometime or you get stuck i am out on face book.
    oh and big thing.
    STAY AWAY FROM THE ALL CONSUMING CHAT LINES. OR MESSENGERS. USE THEM SPARINGLY. i been on a chat for a year. it drained me of ideas and desires to write. soon as i left them my imagination starting cranking out ideas and stories.
    like it said you need a motivation or talk on ideas i am in face book and i think you have my email.

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