Thursday, December 17, 2009


I am not writing. I could give good reasons for this: I'm awaiting a revision letter from an editor. It's the holidays. I am spending a lot of time keeping my house hyperclean in case a prospective buyer wants to inspect it. But the truth is, these are not good reasons. Except for ill health or a death in the family, there are no good reasons for not writing. I tell my students to make time, even if it's only 20 minutes a day, even if it's only half a page a day. And I am not following my own good advice.

The longer I don't write, the harder it's going to be to get back in the rhythm. I know this, from past experience. Also, I get irritable when I'm not working. Snow (of which we have a lot) bothers me. People sneezing in the supermarket bother me. All manner of things I can ordinarily shrug off bother me. This makes me bothersome to everybody else.

So as soon as Christmas is over, I will go back to one of my stratagems for writing that has worked in the past. I will count the words I write each day and graph the results. Unless I want the graph to resemble the NASDAQ, this tends to stabilize my writing. It's not that different from the gold stars one gives kindergartners for cleaning up their rooms -- but maybe we're all just kindergartners at heart.

Or maybe just me.


Lou said...

NOT just you.

We are ALL kindergarteners at heart, and the world would be a better place if we just acknowledged that.

I look forward to the next things you write. I've always enjoyed your writing, but I treasure your friendship more.

TheOFloinn said...

I recommend Minitab for graphing your wordcount. It lets you run a "smoother" through the data so you can get a trendline. I set up a target wordcount for the book and the due date and use that to know if I am "falling behind."

Which, of course, I am.

Daniel said...

Thank you for this post. This will help.

Brendan said...

Don't let the Little Hater win.

Steven Francis Murphy said...

Hi, Nancy. Can I print off your entry and give this to my Significant Other? She never seems to understand why I get so irritable when I haven't written any fiction for weeks because I am spending so much time with her.


I think Sandra Cisneros probably had the truth of it. Writers need to live alone without any distractions.

S. F. Murphy

Nancy Kress said...

yes, of course, Steven, give my entry to your girlfriend -- but don't expect it to help much :)

g d townshende said...

I've struggled on and off since August to get back into the habit of writing. When I did finally re-establish the habit, I managed to write a 60,000 word story in about 45 days or so, and then, once it was finished, went 3-4 weeks without writing again. When I got back into the habit, I shot off a 8500 word story in 6 days, and then launched into another big project. I'm now 21 days into this latest story, and today topped 32,500 words.

I came close to not writing yesterday, but when I looked at where I am with my goal for the year, I knew that if I didn't write, I wouldn't get to where I wanted to be. I struggled, I squirmed, and I even hemmed and hawed, but I wrote, even though it took me longer to reach my daily goal than most days. Today was a struggle, as well, but I pushed through and achieved my goal.

There is so much about habits that reflect the laws of physics: a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Habit in a scientific nutshell.

Steven Francis Murphy said...

Nancy, my girlfriend was sitting right next to me when Sandra Cisneros came to Kansas City last spring and said that writers need time alone to write.

And I swear, much as I love her, I heard a distinctive metallic clang of Sandra's point bouncing off the side of her skull.

While my Significant Other said, with a straight face, "I get it."

I'm still trying to figure out who is training who.

BTW, are you cranky about Avatar? I saw it and I'm cranky about it.

S. F. Murphy

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Sometimes we get weary. Sick of looking at the keyboard.

Still gotta do it, though.

No escape.

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