Saturday, September 12, 2009

What a writer -- or THIS writer -- needs

I made a list once of what to avoid in a boyfriend. When I showed it to a friend, she burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?"
"That anyone would have to write this down as a reminder."
The things in this post may be equally obvious to some people.

To write novels, I need stability: to live in the same place, to have a steady income, to be able to take care of myself in the world. Boyfriends who call when you're in the middle of putting away the week's groceries to say things like, "I'm in London and my meetings just got cancelled, can you come over?" are not really helpful, either (well, that could be good for writing, especially if they paid for the plane ticket and didn't do other unexpected things that lacked the fun component, but that wasn't my situation).

I've been freelancing for the last 8 years, and until this summer, was worried -- anxious, maybe, is a better word-- about money all the time. Mixed with the anxiety was optimism: SOMEDAY (when I sold a book) things would be very different. So -- with my economic future depending on it, of course I felt like everything I wrote HAD TO sell (and when it did spent the money really stupidly). Needless to say this isn't helpful when actually writing; at least, to me it wasn't. The pressure from a deadline -- a publisher expecting a ms. when a contract has been signed and money has changed hands -- does make me write faster and I think, better. Constant anxiety does not.

So at the beginning of the summer, I decided (at Grace's urging, thank you, Grace!) to try and get a job as a nanny. I did and as our regular readers know, loved it. I loved being around Jake and I also loved the steady income. This fall, I have enough nanny work (if everyone keeps their promises) -- with kids I really like -- to pay my rent, utilities, car insurance, groceries: all the necessities. THIS is good for writing.

It has in fact been enormously freeing! I can write what I want and enjoy it and if no one else enjoys does, still pay the rent etc. The stability also allows for the kind of quiet concentration -- almost a state of steady meditation if that's not too pretentious a word -- I need to write something long like a novel. The novel is always on my mind, not always consciously, but often.

For me, playing with children doesn't interrupt this process at all...I think maybe because when I play, my mind is just kind of open to everything, alert and relaxed at the same time, the way I need it to be to write. But maybe this is just me -- or what THIS book needs, now.

And it's always dangerous to predict the future. Maybe in a few months I'll be posting about how I just had to move to the Shetland Islands and help repopulate them by starting an Internet sweater-selling site.

1 comment:

-karen ann. said...

this post was a good read for me today.

money struggles and conflict with the spouse over my choice to prioritize writing over a steady income (i freelance too, and the economy is not generous with jobs these days) is breaking my heart.

i was encouraged by your optimism and attitude. maybe i'll join you in the shetland isles! rent's cheap, right?

(oh, and i know your blog because i sat next to grace lin at a dinner during the scbwi seattle conference in the spring. hi grace!)