Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

writing and real life January 23, 2012


You know, I had a rather easy teaching load first semester, and I thought, “Wow.  There will be so much time to write!” and I didn’t.  I had hoped to finish book 3, and maybe get a good start on book 4 in the Grace Awakening series, but it didn’t happen.

I completely blame Diana Gabaldon for this.

I was making good progress until Outlander came into the electronic library for me in October.  Then I had to read every other book in the series.   Have you seen this series?  The first book is over 800 pages, and it’s the shortest one.  Four of the seven books are well over a thousand pages.  Like 400 pages over.   The books were so good that I read every one of the books twice on my e-reader before they expired from the library, and then I went out and started buying the audio books to listen to while I knitted, sewed, cooked, or cleaned (okay, not so often while I cleaned, but only because I don’t do that very often).  Then I had to find and read all Gabaldon’s Lord John books.  Just because.  Between reading and working and the other stuff- like making a traditional 8 yard kilt…  I wasn’t getting much writing done.  Much?  Read ‘practically none.’

I was listening to the Diana Gabaldon podcast the other day (yes, it’s all gotten quite obsessive, I recognise) and this comment struck me:

I write every day. If you don’t write for a day or two, the inertia builds up on you and it’s hard to start again.  (Diana Gabaldon podcast Episode 3: The “Kernel Process”)

Plainly, that is precisely my experience.  I wrote the first two books in 6 months, writing 5 pages a day, or 25 pages a week, while I was working full-time and president of my Rotary club.  Two years of editing those, and starting the research on the next series, and then Outlander brought me to a grinding halt.    Gabaldon reminded me that it was time to find the hour a day that would break the deadlock and get me in the swing of working on the novel(s).

In the last week, I’ve been making a concerted effort to at least read through the previous work, edit here and there, add a scene, etc.  It’s not a lot, but it’s getting into the habit of spending time with Grace and Ben again, which is the important thing.

Diana Gabaldon is very active on the internet.  She interacts with her fans, she travels, she has family commitments, and yet she is writing every day.  I was reading a section of The Outlandish Companion yesterday that particularly hit me.  She describes her day (December 15, 1995), in amusing detail.  Since I had already read the completed scene in situ, it was very interesting to read the process of its development.  She writes like I do on too little sleep, images come in, she asks questions, and the story evolves.  At the end of that particular day, she was 1700  words short of her 2000 word goal, but she had several threads developing in her mind and she had 300 words more than nothing.  As I read how she wove her writing into her day I decided I need to be far more disciplined if I’m ever going to get Awakening Myth finished for this spring.

Next week the new semester begins, and I’m full-time again.  Guess what?  I bet I’ll find more time than I’ve been able to find for the last five months.  I’ll be squeezing it in between other tasks with intention.  I’ll probably have to cut back on the knitting, but since I have made 3 sweaters, 5 scarves and 5 pairs of socks already, that shouldn’t be too much of a sacrifice.  We’ll see.

PS.  If you want to read about Diana’s day some 16 years ago, it’s here.  If you have The Outlandish Companion, it’s on page 453.

PS2.  Didn’t I say in yesterday’s blog that the student is responsible for learning, and the teacher can only inspire?  Thanks for the lesson, Diana.  I guess it’s my own fault your great books completely distracted me from my responsibilities. I get it.


4 Responses to “writing and real life”

  1. Shawn Bird Says:

    On FB I recently asked DG how many words she aims to do each day. She said she aims for 1000 words on the ‘big book’ in progress, but also does blog work, emails, etc.1000 words per day is 365,000 words a year. At about 350 words per page, that’s a 1000 page novel.

    My own schedule when writing was 25 pages a week, which got me to about 500 pages in almost exactly 6 months. It occurs to me that if I’d diligently kept that pace, I’d have 7 big novels done. Oh well. 🙂 Three works for me!

  2. […] says, is just to sit down and write.  As Diana Gabaldon reminds me, it’s important to write every day to keep up the […]

  3. misskutts Says:

    Wow this is fabulous insight. I too want to write a book, someday, in the distant future….very distant! It’s definitely a career goal of mine but I know it won’t be easy with frequent writer’s blocks and what not. I’d love to read your books, can I get them as eBooks or online like on Amazon?
    Anyways, a very engaging and funny post!

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