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02/08/2010

Writing With Family

I wrote my first novel on a computer that was so slow, it would have been faster to write it out long hand, but I wouldn't have been able to read the result. Since the book was total drivel, that might not have been a bad thing. At the time, I was working two full time jobs, my kids were in elementary school and my mother was living with us during the week so someone would be home with the kids, make sure they got fed, bathed and put to bed sometime before midnight. I came home, ate whatever my mom put in front of me and sat down at the computer. She read or watched TV and I'd brainstorm scenes with her. She read my finished pages, ridiculed the fact that I didn't know how to format my dialogue, proofread, critiqued, and made me get better. The book was still dreck. I still have it, but before I die I'm going to burn it so no one else ever sees it.

The next four books were written on a slightly better computer tucked into the corner of my bedroom. There was a window next to my desk. It leaked cold air and in the winter I needed fingerless gloves to type, a blanket to bundle up in and frequent breaks to walk around and warm up. I was only working one miserable job at the time, so I came home from work, fixed dinner, trotted the kids to whatever activities they had going at the time and dreamed of the day they would be able to drive themselves and I could come home and write. I know now that that dream was somewhat flawed, because having a teenage driver brings with it a whole new host of problems, but at the time, it seemed like it would be an answer to my prayers.

While I wrote, the kids clattered about the house. They came in my room, flopped on my bed and watched television. They told me about their day, and I read them bits of dialogue. From time to time I'd print out a page and have them read it. They would eventually yell goodnight and the thumping of their music, guitars or fights would disappear and I would write in silence until the wee hours of the morning. Waking the next day, grouchy, late and sleep deprived so I could do it all over again. I did that for five or six years. The boys grew up enough to drive themselves, and I had more uninterrupted time to write. I got to bed slightly earlier and was able to get through my days slightly less sleep deprived, but I didn't get much more writing done. My bedroom was still home central. The kids still flopped down in there when they got home. They told me about their day. I shared dialogue and pages. They critiqued, told me when the teenagers in my story were totally wrong. I emailed pages to my mom and she still performed her critiques, and brainstorming sessions. Sometimes electronically, sometimes by phone. I had a new dream. I dreamed of the day I wouldn't have to work. The time when I could get up in the morning and write until my fingers fell off. No interruptions, no sleep deprivation. It was my version of heaven.

I have a job now that allows me to work between six and eight months a year. My summers are spent at home. My kids are grown, one in the Navy, one married and moved to his own home. My mother has gone on to the great library in the sky and I can now write as much as I want. All day, all night. No interruptions. No schedules. My dream has come true. Sort of.

My room is quiet. Oh, the cat wanders in from time to time for a pat on the head and a little nap, but it's quiet here. I can get up in the morning and sit down at the computer and write. It's perfect. It's wonderful. It's boring, and quiet, and I get less writing done now than I did when I worked multiple jobs and chased kids and dogs out of the room when I had a difficult bit of dialogue that was driving me to distraction. Unlike Stephen King, I write with the door open, but now no one comes through. It's hard. It's lonely and it's taken me years to learn how to get things done without the bedlam of family bouncing around me. I'm getting there, but I can't wait to have grandchildren traipsing around my writing space, interrupting me and feeding the dog Crayons. I write best with family.

What about you? Is your writing time sacrosanct? Do write on a schedule and stick to it religiously? Tell me how you write. Maybe I'll pick up a tip that will help me figure out how to write without family.

Comments

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What a beautiful piece, KD!

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