Finding Time To Write
by Ian Birnbaum
Now that Celebrity is in the mail, the entire submission process is on hold - at least for a few weeks. The trick now is to keep writing and submitting, writing and submitting, so that when one of your stories happens to get picked up, you'll have previous submissions providing you with a stream of income until the payday comes in.
One thing that I've always been notoriously bad about is finding time to write. Just about everything I write, including these columns, are written because I have committed myself to a deadline and I have to meet it. Celebrity itself was actually a story I wrote, as an assignment, for a Creative Fiction class at the university (I got an A). This is fine, of course, for things like this column and breaking news stories at the paper, but, for a freelancer, this kind of work ethic just turns you into an unproductive waste of space. For freelancers, there ARE no deadlines. Celebrity could have been mailed tomorrow, or in a week from now, or not until the summer: the editor at Brutarian (unless he happens to read this column) doesn't even know yet that it's headed his way, much less that he really ought to buy it because it's great (nudge nudge, there, Mr. Editor).
So this past week I've decided to start something new. I'm a very busy guy, but every day without fail, I have some free time from 5-6 p.m. during the week. I used to watch TV or replay a level of Half-Life 2, but, starting this past Monday, I've been using that hour to write. I just sit and stare at a blank page, then start writing whatever comes to mind. Whether it's great or it's crap or it's just me bitching about my day, I've found that writing every day really helps oil the hinges of the creative mind.
For example, I came up with a premise for a narrative - I think it was on Tuesday that I jotted it down while I was writing in the back yard and my kitten was playing in the grass around me. It is essentially a fight-the-power story from feudal Japan involving supernatural powers and traditional tattoos - when I have more written on it I'll probably share more about it here. Is it great? Not really. Does it have promise? Potentially. It could be utter crap brought on by my current quest to get a bit of tattoo work done. But, whatever it is, it's some creative exercise. If it doesn't pan out, I will have gotten just that much more writing practice. And practice will eventually pay off when I write something really worth reading (and selling).
Other than this (potentially) productive development, all's quiet around here for while - at least until I hear back about Celebrity. In the next few weeks I'll just be sharing some snippets of short stories or just pondering life, the universe and everything.
So what time every day do you guys write? Time every week? What motivates you?
I make sit and make time the same way you just discovered. Blank page in front of me. Ofcourse, I currently have 23 unfinished scripts sitting on my hard drive, 11 short stories and 2 books in progress that remain unfinished. However, I write by setting time aside for it, and when I'm lucky, serendipity may strike at a random hour and i will bolt to get it written down.
Making time is training yourself a sorta discipline, its not about what you write, its that you write.
Posted by: producedby | February 13, 2007 2:05 AM
Oh, Ian, I know 2 of the biggest lit agents in the known universe. Email me off the site and lets see what i can do for ya.
Posted by: producedby | February 13, 2007 2:07 AM
Ian, your primers on getting published are excellent food for thought!
I write whenever the mood strikes me, or I see something screaming to be written, even if I have to jot it down on a post-it note. Hardcore laptop sessions are usually late night, or in airports and hotels.
Posted by: Pirate | February 13, 2007 3:32 AM
I used to write religiously. Every day. For about three years, from 2002 to 2005, I would come home, crack open a beer, and sit at the computer. The result was six complete first drafts of novels, probably twenty other novels that were started (including An Audience of Shadows, which I am currently finishing up right here on FTTW!*), and countless other short stories. I submitted a few times, got a few rejections, and decided that I enjoyed the act of writing a lot more than I enjoyed editing, submitting, etc. So, I decided to keep it as a hobby, hoping that one day, something I did would get noticed, and something would happen to take my writing to the next level. Sure enough, along come michele and turtle. Now, I'm still getting into my groove writing for the site. My goal is to complete my articles for the next week on the day that this weeks articles are published. Haven't quite gotten there yet, but it'll happen.
Posted by: Uber | February 13, 2007 8:53 AM
I have managed to sit down and write about a dozen short stories. There are written like a drunk vomits. I sit down and bleaaaarrrgh i have a ten page story and its done. It may suck, but it's there. I may flesh it out later, i may not. I should really set time aside for writing because its something i really like to do, but just not as much as making noise.
Posted by: pril | February 13, 2007 12:43 PM
I have two completed novels (one of which was VERY nicely rejected yesterday - it was a VERY good rejection).
My current WIP is in the beginning stages where I'm brainstorming characters and plot. I have 5 more days for that before I get serious about plot.
I need to have a synopsis to my critique group by March.
That gets me off my arse =)
Most of my novel writing gets done on the train to and from work and on the weekends.
FTTW gets researched and written NOT at work, do you hear me? NOT at work at ALL.
Posted by: Deb | February 13, 2007 2:52 PM
Ian...i know i'm coming in late on this, but i'm picking your archive apart. a treasure trove of info there. thanks.
as for writing, lately i've been doing something at least once a week, whenever i get the time. i'll scratch down ideas on whatever i can find, but i'm typing out something once a week.
there are things i keep in a notebook, but that doesn't usually get typed up. i may use pieces - words, phrases, ideas - later on, but the notebook is like my, well, notebook.
as for typing, i get an idea and i have to run with it, type it out, no matter how shitty or sub-par i may think it is. like the 'drunken vomit' from above. if i don't [and i'm usually typing some short-story type thing], i feel like i'm blocked until i get it out / get it down. then it's on to the next.
Posted by: johnny | February 14, 2007 4:14 PM