Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Excitement's Killing Me

by Rebecca Drake

Answer: “Ooh, how exciting!”
Question: What comment invariably follows the reluctant admission that I’m a full-time writer?

So, here’s a little snapshot into the exciting life of one full-time writer:

You forcibly remove all distractions (i.e. small and large people otherwise known as family members) from the house. Lock doors and pray that no one comes back to retrieve something. Retire to desk and plant bum in chair.

Stare at the computer screen and try to remember that this is what you love to do.

Ten minutes pass so slowly that you’re convinced something is wrong with the clock. You’d better check. Fifteen minutes and one call to the computer store later you discover that this is, in fact, the correct time.

Stare at the screen some more. Think about your protagonist and how you want them to sound brilliant and witty and full of life. You write two sentences of dialogue. It’s flat, dull prose and you picture a reader throwing the book down in disgust because the heroine is an idiot. You wonder why you ever thought you could write. You delete the sentences and then you have second thoughts and retrieve them. Next to them you write in caps, FIX THIS! and corral it with brackets.

There, you’ve accomplished something. Surely it’s time for a break. But you promised yourself that you weren’t going to do that, you’re going to *&@3$ well stay in this chair and write.

Only you’ve just noticed that a plant’s withering in a corner of your office. You can practically hear it gasping for breath. You’d better water it right now.

Okay, focus. Stare at the page. You realize you have only five hours left until you’ll have to unlock the door and let the small, noisy and demanding persons back inside. You set to work with a vengeance.

Deeply absorbed in killing off a character you’ve loosely based on the most obnoxious boss you’ve ever had, you’re interrupted by the buzzing of the phone. It will be one of three callers: The school, a relative, or a friend. None of these calls will be urgent, but they don’t hesitate to interrupt you because everyone knows that writing is far too exciting to qualify as a real job.

You will gnash your teeth about this, thus wasting five precious minutes, before taking out your anger on that character. In the end it will help—it will take seven pages for that character to die and you’re so impressed by this scene that you’ll wonder why the Pulitzer people aren’t beating a path to your door.

Once every few weeks you treat yourself to a trip to the local coffee shop where you always see the same group of “artists” in residence on the comfiest chairs discussing the magnum opus that each of them have in process. They’re still there when you leave an hour later. You understand why they’re there and not, say, at home actually working. It’s just too exciting.

11 comments:

Nancy Martin said...

I hire housekeepers to clean my home. Otherwise, I'd be dusting & sweeping & polishing all the time instead of writing. Congrats on the new book, Becky!

Meryl Neiman said...

Those little people really do cramp a writer's style. Great post, Becky. I'm wondering when my mother will accept that I actually work and stop asking me whether I've had the opportunity to spend time lunching with friends.

Devon Ellington said...

How true! Great post!

Tory Butterworth said...

So funny, Becky. And true.

What a great voice!

-Tory

Joyce said...

This is so true! And it doesn't get any easier when those little people grow up, either.

Rebecca Drake said...

Thanks, everybody!

Per your mother, Meryl--I know! The same friends who think it's an exciting job will call and ask, "What are you doing today?" Um, writing?!

I don't answer when I'm working, but that has only convinced my mother-in-law that I'm out shopping all day.

Shirley said...

That is so true. What a great post!

Kristine said...

Your post made me laugh, Becky! Now that I'm working at home, people are amazed that I don't get my house cleaned or those home improvement projects done because I'm supposed to have "all the time in the world now."

I feel your pain.

Debra Lee said...

I can relate to this. Some people, I won't mention names, have made some hurtful comments about how I spend my time. Example: When are you going to get a real job? Must be nice to play on the computer all day.
I try to remind myself that they don't have a clue how much work goes into writing a book. You know, the blood, sweat and tears it takes to get that sucker finished.

Annette said...

I don't have little people to deal with. I have old people to deal with. I'm the official driver to all doctor's appointments. And I can't say "no" because the idea of Mom driving into the city terrifies me. For her safety and the safety of anyone else on the road, I put my writing on hold whenever there's an appointment.

Thank heavens for laptops...

Ovation Leader said...

Okay, you are the boss of yourself, so would you fire yourself for lack of productivity?

Dang, it's hard being self-employed. I'm my own boss and also my own employee.