Us Lazy Writers

may 31 2019 001

My father used to say I was “living the life of Riley” because I wasn’t commuting to an office or a factory but rather staying home and writing books. I wasn’t having any success back then, and that “life of Riley” tag was hard to bear.

Sometimes you have to stop writing and think about what in the story comes next. You can’t avoid it, it’s an integral part of the process. But if you’re not wielding a pick or a shovel, or sitting in a cubicle among other employees’ cubicles, too many people think you’re not, um, “working.” And since you’re not really working, they see nothing wrong with interrupting you.

But we are working! And working pretty hard, at that. The books, stories, and articles don’t write themselves. You might even have to do a spot of reading, if you want to know what you’re talking about when you write. And thinking about it is indispensable–even though it looks to others like you’re just fatzing around.

Once upon a time, my editor at Pinnacle Books thought my horror novel, Schoolhouse, wouldn’t be fit to publish unless I completely rewrote it… in two weeks! Boy howdy, was that a job! Patty feared for my health, I was working so hard. No lollygagging around the water cooler for me. I haven’t had to do anything like that since then, but I hope it gives you an idea of what a writer may be up against.

The next time you see some poor devil frantically scribbling away in hopes of being published–honest, he’s working.

5 comments on “Us Lazy Writers

  1. Pre W.W.W., on the Saturdays I didn’t have to work I would go to the public library and read and study anything that I was interested in. One Saturday as I left home my neighbor was starting building a wooden shed. When I finally arrived home his shed was built and my wife was praising him for his work – but what did I have to show for my work at the library? It was all in my head and on pages of written notes.

  2. When I was doing research and writing, most of my “writing” time was done by arranging all the ideas in my head, seeking patterns, ordering the flow, and pretty much doing most of the writing in my head before I could put it on paper. It used to take me about a week to write my first page, because I really had to have the whole article or chapter set up in my mind before I knew how to set up my introduction. After the first page, I could usually knock out about 5-8 pages a day (this was all handwritten, by the way), but I still had to pause occasionally to think out how to transition an idea, connect what I was saying with what I’d said before, foreshadow what was coming later, and generally hunt for the best phrasing at times.

    Meanwhile, anyone watching this would think I was doing nothing, and I’d often get interrupted by someone asking me to do something or just making idle conversation. It was very frustrating. Once my train of thought was interrupted, I had to go all the way back to the beginning and reread everything I’d already written in order to get the train back on the tracks again.

    In other words — and I suppose I should have used fewer words — I sympathize with you entirely, Lee. 🙂

  3. Here are a few of my thoughts, what I titled: “The Writing Process”

    To those of you who are not serious writers, these questions might have passed through your thoughts a time or two. Why is a quiet secluded spot the best place to do some earnest writing? And, why doesn’t a writer like to be interrupted when writing? Focus and concentration is the short answer.

    Sometimes an interruption is not a problem for a writer; however, at times even a slight distraction can be the cause of a lost idea, a thought, mental picture, notion or concept. The loss of concentration often means, what was starting to form in the mind, starting to become clear, has now dissipated, vanished, most of the time never to reappear or be heard from again. Ideas are like bubbles; the slightest disturbance can cause them to dissipate rather quickly.

    Ideas just float around, having no definite direction, destination or purpose, just going wherever the wind takes it. To capture one, to make it conform to your thoughts at times is very trying. Ideas to a writer are like small pieces of ivory soap floating in a swift moving stream of water. They are hard enough to catch without an interruption, and even if you manage to grab onto one, it may break apart, dissolve anyway and be lost, even though trying hard to cling to it. And if you are distracted for even a short period of time, the piece you were attempting to capture before your interruption is now just floating away and out of reach.

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