Monday, September 17, 2007

Time After Time

By Guest Blogger Victoria Thompson

Victoria Thompson is the Edgar-nominated bestselling author of 20 historical romances and the popular Gaslight Mystery Series. Her latest hardcover novel, Murder in Chinatown, was published in June 2007. She will present her popular writing workshop, "Clues and Red Herrings: Plotting the Modern Mystery," on Saturday, October 20, 2007 in Pittsburgh, an event sponsored by the Mary Roberts Rinehart Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Cost is $65 and includes a buffet lunch. Deadline to sign up is October 1. Contact pghsisters@yahoo.com for registration form and more information. To learn more about Victoria, visit her website at www.victoriathompson.com.

When I first got published, the question I heard most from people who were non-writers was, “Where do you get your ideas?” Like most writers, I found this question frustrating to answer. As we all know, ideas just come! You can’t stop them, even if you want to! But after a few years, I began to understand that the ideas only come to a select few of us. Most people don’t see a story idea every time they pick up the newspaper or have a dream or chat with their neighbor for a few minutes over coffee. Most people don’t hear fictional characters having conversations inside their heads. Most people are normal! So now when people ask that question, I explain that writers are born with a defective gene, and we get ideas from everywhere. We can’t help it. This seems to satisfy the normal people of the world—writers are just different.

Nowadays, however, I get an entirely different question. A little over a decade ago, when my writing career died an ignominious death, I had to get a day job, and eleven years later, I’m still working fulltime. I was lucky enough to get another writing gig a couple years later and have published regularly ever since, but my writing income has never again reached the halcyon days when Romance Was Queen and one could actually live on it. So I’ve kept my day job. And now when people find out I’m a published writer, the question they ask is, “How do you find time?” This one is even harder to answer than the question about where ideas come from. The ideas just come, but the time sure doesn’t. It just flies. Away.

So my answer to this question of how do I find time is simply that we find the time to do what we want to do. And if we don’t find time to do what we want to do, we shrivel up and die. Maybe not literally die, but die inside. Our dreams dry up, our tomorrows become just blank pages on the calendar, and life simply isn’t worth the living anymore. I can’t face blank pages on my life’s calendar. I can’t imagine life without writing. I can’t stop the voices in my head. I can’t stop writing, so I make the time, I find the time, I cheat and steal the time. I have time to write because that’s what I want to do most in the world.

How about you? Do you have time to write?

12 comments:

Kristine said...

I've always believed that if you're passionate enough about something, you will always find a way to work it into your life, even if it's just for 10 minutes a day. Once I made writing a top priority, I found that I was more productive than I ever thought was possible, and yes, that was even when I had a full-time job. It's a challenge at times but worth the sacrifice in so may ways.

Thanks for being here, Victoria! I can't wait for your workshop next month.

Debra Lee said...

Great post, Victoria! I couldn't help but chuckle from your defective gene comment. I'm still asked where I get my ideas. If you don't mind, I'd love to use this the next time someone tosses me that question.

I agree on the time issue. Even if I were holding down two full time jobs, I'd manage to continue to write. Otherwise I'd be impossible to live with.

Tory said...

I can totally relate to the "defective gene" comment. That's why we need other writers in our lives, so we have someone to share the "wouldn't that make a great story!" moments with. (We all know there are many more of those moments than stories that get written.)

So, Victoria, what IS your day job?

Gina said...

Even worse than the person who asks about where you get ideas is the person who has an idea for a book and would like you to do the "easy" part -- write it! Getting ideas isn't hard -- it's figuring out how to put them into a coherent written format that takes time and effort. I'm hoping your workshop will help with this.

I have trouble snatching a few minutes here and there to write because once I enter that other world of scenes and characters, it's hard to pull back out again and carry on with normal life. My solution is to work part time, leaving a few days in every week on which I can devote blocks of time to writing.

Martha Reed said...

You are so right - you have to make the time. I get up early every morning so I can have a quiet hour to write before I go to my day job, and I schedule the weekends so I can fit another 5-6 hours a day of free time. That's all I get, but it's enough.

Conflict happens when I have series of weekend when I get booked on other things and can't write! (That's happening to me now). I worked my sister's garage sale all weekend and I can FEEL the need to get creative ... and I'm having a hard time not calling in 'sick' today to make up for it! It would be for my mental health...

Annette said...

With my mom currently bouncing back and forth between the hospital and rehab place and me running to visit her everyday and make sure her recovery stays on track, I have done NO writing for the last three weeks (other than blog posts). It's beginning to take its toll on me. I knew I wouldn't have much time for writing during this period (which is why I made sure I finished my last manuscript and shipped it off to my agent PRIOR to Mom's surgery), but I didn't realize I'd have NO time for writing. And I do feel the inner strain.

So my goal is to write SOME thing this week. I see some potential small blocks of tkme where I could sneak off and put some words on paper. It is definitely a need more than a desire at this point.

Looking forward to the workshop, Victoria. And welcome to the Working Stiffs!

Annette said...

Oops. That's blocks of TIME, of course. Don't even know what tkme is.

Joyce said...

Excellent post!

I used to complain that I didn't have enough time to write. Once I decided to make time, I've been much happier. The only problem is my husband doesn't quite get that I can't clean the house and write at the same time. Oh well.

Christa M. Miller said...

Kristine, I'm in complete agreement with you. One of the hardest things I've had to overcome is thinking that I "need" a block of time - an hour or more - in which to write. I don't like writing in those 10-minute chunks, but I can do it, and have found success this way - more slowly, to be sure, but success.

Kristine said...

Hi Christa, I find that I get just as much done in smaller chunks of time than I do when I have hours to write. The more time I have, the more I tend to goof off and procrastinate.

Victoria Thompson said...

So glad to hear from writers who are carving out that precious time to write! For whoever is curious, my day job is a nonprofit fundraiser for a faith-based agency that owns retirement communities and operates social service programs. It's lots of fun. I got into fundraising because I'd spent my entire adult life doing volunteer fundraising. I had no idea you could get paid for it, too!

Jackie Houchin said...

Great post! It's a good answer to the first question you were asked, but I don't know about the second answer... "You find the time to do what you want to do." Hmmm. What about the things you MUST do? What if they take up ALL your time? I guess the solution is to get out of a few of them! :-) Thanks for the encouragement.