Thursday, August 25, 2011
A day's work
Earlier this week I listened to a Diane Rehm show on NPR where she was interviewing author Laura Lippman. Before becoming a bestselling novelist, Lippman started out as a writer for a newspaper in Waco, Texas, where she covered local politics and wrote feature stories. After a few years she became a writer for the Baltimore Sun, where she also wrote many different kinds of stories.
In the morning, as a newspaper writer, she would be given an assignment and a deadline. Usually she'd have that eight-hour day to research a story and write it. She could never say, "Oh, I'm not feeling it today," or "The words weren't flowing." She had no choice. She applies that same work ethic to her fiction writing. Every day she sits down at her desk and gets to work.
My friend and fellow writer has a similar work ethic. Here she describes "approaching writing as [she] would approach a project in the workplace." She has a limited amount of time that she can work on her novels, and so she makes that time count, producing one or two chapters in a three hours.
Today was the first day I've tried to write since late last week. I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with a chapter, and I found myself staring at the open word document. Then I looked over at my keyboard--maybe if I played for a few minutes I'd find my muse? No, I needed to focus. Maybe if I visited the New York Times website I'd get some ideas? Checked out the latest Voices of August post at Rough and Rede? No, I know how ten minutes of web browsing quickly turn into an hour for me.
So I thought about my friend. I thought about Laura Lippman. I turned off the wireless network on my laptop so that even if I open my browser (which I did more than once), I wouldn't see anything. I would quickly close it, reminding myself to focus. I started writing--it was okay, not great--and just kept writing. Push through anything I thought was mediocre, knowing I'll be able to go back and revise. In all I wrote almost 1300 words. It was a decent pace that I can replicate.
My reward? Writing this blog post and playing the keyboard!