California

Things You Learn

I was going to write a post that explains the holobiont (and I still might), but since I’m writing about that somewhere else, I thought I’d vent some on learning what it’s like to be a serious writer.

I know that real writers out there are going to roll their eyes at this post, but this is all new to me. I thought writing came fairly easy. I can type 750 words in less that 20 minutes, for goodness sake. I should be able to churn out pages and pages of text in hours. A novel in days! Right. Turns out that my typing skills really only make me suited to be a secretary. Writing, real writing, it appears takes hours of butt in chair dedication that yields maybe a single workable paragraph (once again we are back to my beef with science: no equivalent reward for the work you put in).

And the kicker . . . I’m still not a real writer. I’m just someone who’s spending a lot of my time sitting in a blue chair, facing a window that looks into my neighbor’s yard, squinting at a back-lit screen. I feel an awful lot like Pinocchio, hoping that if I go through the motions, someday I’ll be a real boy.

But until then. Here are a few things I’ve noticed happens when you start to work at writing like a real writer:

1. You rarely leave your house. I mean, you could, but nowhere else will there be exactly the music you want, a variety of free beverages, a comfy chair, and reliable wireless. Also the energy it would take to pack all your papers and your computer(s)–and later repack to go home–is just too great. It’s easier to just have a permanent cluttered pile of designated space in a dusty corner of the house you never leave. Further, to leave the house, you’d have to get dressed which leads me to

2. You spend a lot of time in pajamas (or what I deem clothing only suitable for indoor lounging). You might shower, you might even go for a run, but invariably, you find yourself slipping back into the comfy cotton pants you had on the night before. The house is so cold and fleece is so warm; you’re sitting still for so long. You might get bedsores if you wear those cute (but a bit too tight) jeans. I find I have an actual uniform now: warm pants, tank, faded long-sleeved shirt featuring the logo of San Diego’s oldest Tavern, huge fleece sweater, fuzzy socks. I wear this every day, and resent when I have to change my clothes to face the real world.

3. You begin to resent commitments and people who take away from your writing. Even when you know that you can’t sustain 14 hours straight of writing, you still blame others for why you aren’t on your butt doing it. It’s their fault that you are only able to get out one paragraph out in six hours. If you weren’t concerned about all the energy you would have to expend later to get dressed and leave the house to meet these stupid people, you would get soooooo much more done.

4. You drink a lot less. Because there just isn’t time. How did all those Beat writers and Lost Generation authors fit their drinking into their writing schedule? Instead,

5. You eat candy that you steal from your kid’s Valentine’s day bag. (my secret shame)

6. You read a lot less. This one is the hardest for me. I miss reading. But it’s like a gateway drug. If I start reading something earlier in the day (I’ll just do one page, what can it hurt?), I will look up an hour later and realize that I’m still reading. If I want to stay productive, I have to limit my pleasure reading to when I am done writing for the day. And with kid and making dinner and helping with homework and showers and general clean-up, I don’t actually get to read until I am sitting in bed.

I miss my book friends.

7. There is a general feeling of satisfaction that you did put in the time. That you did buckle down and are actually doing it (Peter). And even as you watch unmet deadlines zoom by, you are actually seeing something (perhaps small and unimportant but something nonetheless) grow.

It’s kind of like watching your kid grow up but with less vomit and shit.

So, I keep writing, hoping against hope that at the end of this, the Blue Fairy will show up and make me a real writer.

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