Just back from a very productive lunch with a new friend and former student who writes for me (actually, for the newspaper) pretty regularly. We talked about her writing projects and mine.
Advice for aspiring writers: hang out with other writers. Exchange ideas. Network. Inspire each other. Trade stories, read each other’s work, learn from one another. This is a Good Thing.
Case in point: She asked me about her idea for a book and picked my brain on various points, like what are the benefits of seeking a publisher versus self-publishing; what are the angles for marketing; what kind of format should she consider for each section; how does one put together a book proposal, etc. I found myself telling her about the stresses and anxieties of working at the newspaper, and that despite the fulfillment of creating a valuable community asset like the Alameda Sun, I was still frustrated at not being able to do much creative writing — my “real” writing.
I sometimes go back and re-read my journals from years ago, and without variation they all say, “I wish I was writing, I need more time to write, I must write or die.” Etc. Same song, different year. And now that I have this fulltime dream job of starting a newspaper, creating the direction of its editorial content, making 95 percent of the decisions about what goes into it, voila! The perfect writer’s job, right? But the amount of energy that goes into such a venture comes right from my creative writing bank, or tank, as it were, and thus I find myself, at the end of a long day of editing and interviewing and writing and managing other people’s writing, plus the joy of a 50-mile commute each way and single parenting to boot, there just isn’t a lot of juice left to sit down and start my next novel.
Whining? Not intentionally. Just venting a bit about certain things that need attention. Like the dust bunnies under the bed and the weeds in the garden. Except that I don’t really care about the dust bunnies and I do really care about the writing.
So my writing friend says to me, after hearing this out, that I should make an appointment with myself to write every week, and keep it, and don’t let other things get in the way. In other words, just make my writing a priority and give myself the time I need to do it. I know she’s right. Don’t we all know that? Sometimes we just need to hear it. And since then the ideas have been just flying into my head. I could hardly see straight on the drive home with ideas flowing, popping, jamming, could hardly wait to get home and start putting it onto paper. Or cyberspace.
Want to see the list? Hmm, it goes something like this: “Wow, I really have to get going on the book publicity again. Gotta call all the bookstores that carry the book and see about repeat appearances, see how many books they sold, collect my commissions. And these other bookstores that I didn’t get to yet — gotta call them, too. I should contact (name) at (place) and see about reading again, and what about that radio show? I should see about getting on that show. And writing — I need to rewrite “Sugar Pine” a bit, and do that September 11 piece I keep thinking about, and then see where to send it. Yeah, like The Sun (magazine). I have got to check out that issue of The Sun and see what they’re calling for. I need markets for my work. And I have to send that copy of “Opium” to (name) as I said I would. And my blog — what about using the blog to write out portions of my memoir? And my novel. And my short story collection. And my column. Or should I have separate, interweaving blogs? Or just blog away? Why, blogging itself is a valuable exercise, is it not? Yes, it is.”
You see how it goes; the conversation with self disintegrates into a strange, pseudo-Victorian, semi-manic gush-fest. Note to self: stop that. No, don’t.
And when I got home, there in my country mailbox with the little red flag was a stack of bills and the latest copy of Poets & Writers — is that some sort of karmic message or what? Gotta pay the bills, gotta feed the creative writer within. Duality. It’s another Good Thing. So, high on the joy of writing, I find myself at it again. Peace and love and all is right with the world. Amen, amen.