Monday, May 16, 2011

Manufacturing Time

Some time ago, the awesomeness that is Stephen Parrish, posted a personal story and asked for his readers’ stories in return. I read his post and it moved me, and instead of posting, I sent him an email… the funny thing was, as I was sending him an essay length personal story for no reason other than it struck me, Stephen was sending me a simple, “Doing okay over there?” out of the blue.

Because he’s one of the good ones. One of those writer friends who knows when the rest of the world is beating your ass and takes the time to tell you to get over it and write already.

He wrote me back to tell me to publish that essay. To put it out there. I don’t take things Stephen says about writing lightly. I’ve never seen him compliment anything that didn’t have extreme merit, so on that note it did what Stephen always does – made me feel like writing.

My status update today on facebook was, “wishes I could figure out how to manufacture more time in a day”. And lately I’ve been downright whiney about my lack of time which has culminated in an absence of writing which sometimes feels like a lack of air. The stories are still there, the characters still knock on my eyeballs and kick around the cobwebbed corridors in my noggin… but they’re getting softer, harder to hear, farther away from lack of listening. Pretty soon they’ll find windows to break in someone else’s head… okay, maybe not, but I think it’s like a muscle. Writing isn’t all muse and fluff and magical inspiration. It’s sit in the fucking chair, get your shit together, and do the work. When you can’t find the time to do that, you have to make it.

Yes, I can manufacture time. Twenty minutes later to bed, a half an hour earlier in the morning… less facebook, more Microsoft word. I’ve done this before. Gone without sleep to write. Gone without tv or social time or whatever… And I logged back into facebook today, and saw that quote up on my page and thought, “Well, hell, you whiney bitch, what’s wrong with right now?”

So it starts with a blog post. While dinner’s on the stove… I’m not allowing myself sleep until I hit a decent word count. Time to stop lamenting the woes of my little corner of the world and get on with it… that’s the one thing about being creative by nature... you have to find the wherewithal to push yourself. No one else will do it; no one else cares if you make it. It’s up to you to manufacture your time.

Where do you find the time? Is it a routine or whenever the fancy strikes? And do you wait for the elusive muse, or hog tie her ass and make her stick around til the word count is in?


Laurel said...

I'm going with hog tie for the win.

You're a great writer, Merry. I've seen snippets from you here and there. I want to read more. You deserve to write more, even if it means trimming from something else.

Do you outline? I know this sounds pedantic, but I started outlining (VERY ROUGH) because of time constraints. I found that my "I don't have enough time" was, often as not, code for "I don't have enough time to figure out what the next scene should be." When I plot out a series of events, it doesn't seem too overwhelming for the block of an hour that I might have between dropping Pirate off at soccer practice and picking him up. At the very least, I can edit with an eye for what's coming up next.

Merry Monteleone said...

I think hog tie probably gets the only wins! =)

Thank you, Laurel. So are you!!! I love your voice, it totally makes me want to go explore the south...

I actually do outline now. I used to be a total pantser, and that's still pretty much how I work with blogs, short stories and articles... but for the novel I'm working on, I did finally give in and outline... and it did help get the rough draft out there...

The biggest thing for me right now is NOT to let myself wallow in my current limitations. I have to write daily. Even when I'm tired. Even when I'm not in the right frame of mind. Even when there are a million other things to do. It's just as important as laundry, or bills, or the work that pays the bills. I can do all of it, I just need to adjust my mindset a little and stop being so fucking whiney.

And being out of the fiction writing routine is kind of like not exercising... when you exercise every day, you feel great and even enjoy it... when you haven't in a long time, it hurts and sucks, and seems to take forever with little progress... I have to get back in my writing space, daily. That's it. No excuses.

(BTW, I totally balked at outlining for the longest, but yeah, it helped keep me on track when scenes were hard to get through)

Stephen Parrish said...

You just inspired another blog post. Meanwhile I'd like to point out that I've known you for four or five years, and you've never been in such muscular and confident command of the English language as you are now.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I'm a better writer with synopses and outlines. I've fallen off mine in this latest book and I'm feeling the pain. (Never mind the outline was wrong, but I should have sat my ass back down and fixed that. Would have saved me 6 weeks.)

I write full time, basically, but I have to make myself do it. Having a long stretch of time can be really dangerous to word counts. So I tend to break the day (sit and write for 30 minutes, get up and change the laundry) or whatever.

Writing the blog helps prime the pump for me, too, though I know it doesn't work that way for everyone.

Merry Monteleone said...


Oddly enough, I stopped trying to write pretty.

Can't wait to read your post.


Merry Monteleone said...

Hey Bets,

I still hate synopses... I don't know what it is with that, it never sounds right or does justice to what the story is... outlining I can work with just because no one else will see it... it's like a cheat sheet per chapter. And by the end, mine looked a mess, because I made so many changes in the writing that influenced later (and earlier chapters).

Blogging isn't so much priming the pump for me... at least not the act of writing the post... I guess a lot of people would call it scratching the itch... you get stuff out there and get feedback, but it's not quite that, either... it's really a connection to other writers, and that does prime the pump for me... getting to talk to other people who get it make me feel like writing... I never ended a writing conversation that my fingers weren't itching to get back to the keyboard.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I whine about time all the time.

I've also decided that I need to stop writing "for publication" and write the book I need to write.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

You might not know,
I write my tagline first. Then I write my query letter. Then I write synopsis (that often looks like a chapter by chapter breakdown, but it's definitely prose) And then I write the damn book.

During drafting I go back and look at the query and synopsis for guidelines and also to make changes as I go.

By the end I generally have all three: Query, synopsis, and book, though my publisher doesn't need synopses.

jjdebenedictis said...

Go, Merry! Like others have said, I find an outline helps. If I don't know what to write, I know to sit down and outline until I do.

Merry Monteleone said...


Can I just say, "Yay!" Because I'm dying to read the book you were meant to write.

Keep plugging away... without a paycheck sucks, but you're one of the good ones, you'll get it out there.

Merry Monteleone said...

Bets, that's an awesome way to do it... I wish I was that focused...

The only reason I went with an outline was that I was 150 pages in, knew it sucked, and trashed the whole thing... But the story wouldn't go away... I knew there was something to it... so I started over with an outline. The writing was easier... but then, I'd been living with it for a long, long time before getting to what was essentially the rough draft.

Merry Monteleone said...

Thanks, JJ!!!!!

A lot of my writing buddies are outliners... I don't know if it'll stick for me... I do think writing a rough pitch helps in the early stages... don't know if I'll fully outline the next one or not.

Wendy said...

I don't know why, but for some reason this post reminded me of something I just read about the "psychology of luck". It was a study done by Richard Wiseman and it focused on analyzing why some people seem to be lucky and some don't. You talked about "hog tying" the muse and it reminded me of a section in his paper about how more good fortune comes when you get out of your routine, be aware of connections and spy present opportunities.

The best thing I have found to do to shortcut the time it takes to pour stuff onto a page is to do just that -- take a drive, walk in the park, meander the grocery store aisles. For me it just seems to concentrate the inspiration and it certainly beats whacking my head against the keyboard in the boring corner of my living room!

Oh and that study is at Wiseman's site if you want to read it.