Monday, September 07, 2009


There’s only one thing wrong with most holidays…
And it’s not even that they’re over too soon. Never mind that they usually ARE…but that’s not it.
One aspect of holiday weekends that makes most of us writers salivate at our keyboards is the thought that, for at least some of that time, we CAN be salivating at our keyboards, and no one’s going to say a word. The husband’ll be sleeping late on one or all of those days…the kids’ll be outside (at least on these summer holidays) tooling around the neighborhood or sitting in a cool basement playing video games…and there we’ll be, with nothing but a few hours ahead of us, a computer in front of us, and a pot of coffee beside us.

Should be an idyllic creative moment, right?
Not necessarily.

I found myself this evening in an interesting conundrum. I had a busier weekend than I should have, in that I had to play catchup on some freelance work that fell by the wayside last weekend. Long story, health related, daughter is OK, we think…(budget won’t be, but daughter is). But when your Sunday and Monday are interrupted with ER visits and X-ray errands, not to mention pharmacy runs and the other draining or daunting side trips, writing tends to take a back seat. Writing something funny or heartwarming at that point might be just what the doctor ordered—but you haven’t got the strength or the energy for it, either. (!)

Nevertheless, now that things are calmer, I’ve been scrambling to get current with my nonfiction writing assignments. Some of them are pretty well caught up or—dare we say it?—even, for all practical purposes, done. One still has multiple parts left to it, and has taken way too long…but at least the collaborator seems generally pleased with the work once we finally get past his broken English and my complete ineptitude at writing “techie” and meet in the middle. :-) I did send back some of the documents he had made suggestions on, rewritten and the like—but I didn’t do that until I ran smack into a brick wall looking at my own work.

And there’s the rub. The idea that “when I get time over a weekend, I’m going to use it writing,” versus the reality of what actually happens when we do so. As in, sometimes, panic.

Yeah, I know, writing’s easy for me. It’s supposed to be, anyway. But I’ve been had. Hornswoggled. Led down the garden path…of nonfiction editing and freelance pieces. These pieces, on the whole, come together without a whole lot of angst on my part. They’re not easy, necessarily…but they just don’t take a lot emotionally out of me, either, which is good—because ideally, then, that leaves the emotion for the fiction.

Until I sat there this evening looking at the work I had to do on one book, and thought, “This is too much. This is going to be SO hard. I’m not even sure what way to go yet.” So I pulled out the short story…and had much the same reaction. I didn’t want to get back into it. I was scared I couldn’t do it…again. And I retreated to the safe, easy stuff I know I CAN do now. Even if it’s sometimes boring as sin—at least I know I CAN do it. And I will get paid something for it.

Which, even if I were to finish the fiction I’m working on now in the next twenty minutes…won’t be something that happens any time soon from it.

It can’t be denied that right now, my most pressing need is money, and so it makes sense that writing for pay—even if it’s not all that dependable pay—tends to be more attractive than writing fiction that may, or may not, sell sometime before I’m supposed to officially be “retirement” age. (No comment.) But I wish it had not also turned into something that’s become more “fun”—because it’s easier—than fiction.

I’m a novelist. I’m still feeling called to be a novelist. But quite honestly, where is the energy and emotion going to come from for it if I chicken out and write the stuff I know I’ll get paid for first? And where am I as a responsible working writer if I shun things I really can do, things that will pay things like daughter’s ER bill…in favor of trying to eke out some of my novels again from the unsettled states and pieces in which they find themselves?

If I had the answer to this one, I’d not have to worry about trying to apportion time properly on a holiday weekend. A
nd I would have had a more successful fiction “go” on this one, too.

But maybe, just maybe, if I approach my fiction the way I started out doing nonfiction…which was tiny pieces at a time…I can get my “fiction feet” back under me again. I can get the novel’s sea legs again...and once again, find the most relaxing, exhilarating, and rewarding end of my work coming from where it always came from before.

Maybe. I’m hoping so. Because this alternative of having novels in pieces, short stories half done, and feeling like a failure every time I don’t crank out a couple thousand words of my OWN stuff a weekend…this ain’t a good place to live in for long. I don’t like it. And I can’t believe it’s remotely good for my Muse or what I still feel called, after all this time, to do.


1 comment:

Donna Alice said...

Yes, I can so relate. I'm a working writer. I get paid well for non-fiction and for educational worksheets - yup the stuff where you underline the adverb or circle the noun. And the truth is, I really NEED the job and feel blessed to have it since my current situation doesn't allow me to work outside the home this year.

But - there's that inner tug toward fiction too.

If you find any answers, let me know. I like your idea about 80 days left in the year and writing 500 words a day. I might be able to manage that.