I use to read a lot more than I wrote, but now that I’m a writer my writing time has increased exponentially while my reading time has somewhat decreased, even though I feel compelled to read more than ever. Are you still with me? It's a bit of a conundrum.
Even then, I seldom feel a sense of satisfaction that I’ve put in enough time on my work in progress. Thirty minutes is a warm-up. Sixty minutes is a sprint. One to two hours is good. Anything more than two hours is much better. Four is great. That feels like an accomplishment. My back starts speaking to me a lot earlier than that though, so I tend to rotate chairs, couches, beds, and cushions.
It’s a lot of detailed work, creating characters that inhabit worlds. Getting them into your head and on paper is one task. Getting them out of your head is another. Once they come to life they can be intrusive, popping up unannounced during inconvenient times. For example, at three o’clock in the morning or as I’m preparing for bed at night, some minor character makes an appearance and lets me know that they deserve more space on the page, that they have more to say than what I’ve imagined. They are persistent and there goes my sleep. I might as well pick up the note pad that I keep by the bed for just such annoying occasions.
Several years ago, I overheard a group of published authors joyfully exclaiming that they had so much fun writing. That sounded good. I wanted to experience fun while writing also because at the time, the pieces of my stories were rather disjointed and it was more challenging than enjoyable— probably because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t realize that I was an apprentice writer and that I needed more hands-on experience and time. I needed to study the work of those who had mastered the craft to better understand where I needed to grow and improve. A wise student is a humble one that realizes there is a lot they don’t know. When I read the early works of well-established, prolific authors, I see how their work has improved over time. So even after the first book is published, the craft continues to be honed.
It’s sort of like thinking that just because I had a lovely wedding, I’ll have a good marriage. I’ve made a giant commitment, but now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and do the real work. Each and every day I have to recommit to the process, even though sometimes I may question why. But, I hang in there because the rewards are there too. I remember being a new driver. Was it fun trying to parallel park, merge onto a busy highway or make a left-hand turn at a busy intersection? Not at all, but in time the process of navigating the roads became easier, maybe even pleasurable.
One of the biggest rewards any of us can experience derives from knowing that we persevered, through the good and bad times. When it comes to writing, it’s facing the blank page and adding hundreds of words. It’s knowing that I created a world that maybe, hopefully, someone will find interesting enough to read, maybe even enjoy. And somewhere along the way, I also had fun.