Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Survival Strategies and Rituals for Writers

Every day we're all inundated with information, work, family responsibilities, and so on. I'm still working on strategies to manage it all. How do you get through the day?
I start every morning at about 5:30 with a cup of black coffee and the LA Times before I get ready for work. I have to come up slow before I deal with the day. The LA Times used to be a fat paper with good writers. Lately, it's become a scraggly rag with more ads than articles. It still has good writers, but they must be few judging by the fact that they often dredge up old stories. Mostly, the news consists of the four Ds:  death, disease, disaster, and deceit. The news does not paint a pretty picture of humanity, but it's fodder for writers. As a writer, you must either learn to deal with the world or escape it, but no matter which, you must understand it. So I persist in this ritual. I am not fond of reading the news on the computer or my iPhone although I do. I prefer the tactile feel of the paper in my hands. Occasionally, I whip out scissors and cut out an article that I think might serve a story some time. Of course, I save electronic files, but somehow it's not as intriguing as a folder of yellowed newspaper articles.

This morning I waded through the usual news of Mexican murders, Middle Eastern turmoil, serial killers, embezzlement, political shenanigans, homelessness, unemployment, and natural disasters. I skipped the obituaries. There's something almost cheery about obits in comparison to the desperation in the other stories. When you're on a bleak streak, might as well go full tilt.

Then I did a quick check of email and renewed my vow to take the time to get rid of all the junk mail that finds it way into my mailbox. I have learned that you should never subscribe to blogs by email unless you really love them. There are some blogs I do love and I read every one, but for the most part I have dealt with all this mass amount of information with Google Reader. It allows me to put blog feeds in buckets so I quickly scan them and determine which have content I want to read and which I want to skip. When I review blog feeds on my iPhone, I can send topics that really interest me to ReadItLater.

By the end of the day, the world usually feels too heavy. I suffer from information overload, my frustrations with editing a novel and working full time, and all the other stuff that gets in the way. I look forward to working in the garden or a long walk. When the last glowing rays of sun settle on the mountains and illuminate the roof tops, I listen for the screeching parrots that have lately arrived in our neighborhood. I am reminded that there is a serenity in the universe that is not always in my life. I try to reserve enough energy for an hour or so of writing and I know it is not enough.


  1. " death, disease, disaster, and deceit"
    You said it well. ; ) I, too, love the feel of paper, but find that my asthma is reacting negatively to the smell of the ink, so I'm considering a Kindle with an electronic subscription. May your days be productive.

  2. Definitely get a Kindle, if for no other reason than it allows you to sample so many authors before you decide what you want to purchase.

  3. That evening walk sounds wonderful. Bad thing to do, but I don't read the newspapers or listen to the news much. Information overload hits when I start feeding on the negative stuff on the news and in the papers. Your post makes me realize that I don't carve out down time for myself. I need to change that.

  4. 5:30 am??? gah.... I wake up at 6:45 :P Then again, I usually am ready to leave for work 20 mins after I wake. I have coffee and breakfast at work ;)

    I basically spend my days looking forward to getting home so I can write.

  5. Williams cafe wireless ate my comment the first time. :(

    Two strategies spring to mind - I steal time for my own projects on the way to and from the office, by carrying along a netbook or alphasmart and doing writing, editing, or drafting blog posts on the bus.

    I also often walk part of the way home - from my office to downtown Burlington is half an hour's walk. It helps clear my mind from office stuff, is good exercise, and saves me two-fifty in Burlington bus fare. Guess what the biggest motivation is to keep walking day after day? ;)

  6. I suspect stealing time is the way many of us survive as writers. I have used iPhone for Blogger drafts.

    The biggest motivation for walking, outside of getting rid of insidious office stuff, would be creative thinking--for me. Too far to walk to work in my case, but in the 20 minutes I have in the car I've resolved a few plot problems without running over anybody.