Friday, August 05, 2011

All Work and No Play

by Bente

I wrote THE END on DIY-6 last Friday.

That doesn’t mean the book is finished, of course. I’ve written it, and rewritten it, and it’s in good enough shape to go to a couple of readers. When I get feedback from them, I’ll rewrite it again, and then send it to my agent. She’ll give me feedback, and I’ll rewrite again and then send it to my editor. Six months will go by, she’ll give me feedback, and I’ll rewrite again. And maybe again. But for now, I’ve written THE END and I’m happy.

I sat for an hour or so twiddling my fingers, wondering what to do next. Life felt sort of empty. By Friday night I’d started a new book, the fifth – and probably last – in the Cutthroat Business series. For the past week, I’ve regaled my followers on Twitter with this sort of scintillating tweets: “5K on A DONE DEAL.” “6K. Going for 7K by bedtime.” “10K. Can I make it to 11K by the end of the day? Stay tuned!”

As of this writing – Thursday morning – I’ve broken 15K and I’m faithfully hoping for 20K by Friday night. 20,000 words in a week is pretty good, even for me. 22K, and I have a quarter of a book. At that rate, I could almost finish in a month. And no, that won’t happen, because A) I can’t keep up the pace for that long, and B) other things will start to happen soon, to interfere, like the kids going back to school and Killer Nashville kicking off and getting revisions on DIY-6 coming back from somebody. Plus, I still I have to revise Cutthroat Business #4, Close to Home, by the end of the month, too.

Anyway, in the midst of my 5K – 7K – 10K updates on Twitter, a friend tweeted me back to say she was amazed at my work ethic.

I stared at it – the tweet – for a while, not quite sure how to respond. What work ethic?

The truth is, I’m lazy to the bone. I’ve never held down a job for more than two years, and it’s usually been much less than that before I’ve gotten bored and moved on. I haven’t had a “real” job for twelve years, since Thing One came into my life, followed by Thing Two. My house is a mess, my garden is a mess, and generally speaking, my life is a mess. I rarely exercise, I have no hobbies – not now that writing’s become a career – and I spend at least twelve hours every day hunched over the keyboard, my back curved like a vulture as I peck away at the keys.

It isn’t work ethic. It’s partly obsession, or maybe compulsion is a kinder word.

It’s partly self-preservation, too; if I don’t do it, the voices in my head get L.O.U.D.

But mostly it’s fun. The most fun I have with my clothes on.

And of course I do get up. To get another can of Diet Dr. Pepper to keep me going for another 1K. To get the mail. To pick up the kids from school. To make lunch and dinner. To take the dog out before she piddles on the carpet. It’s not like I’m shackled to the desk. (Although sometimes it feels that way.)

I can usually write three books a year. Plus another 50,000 words or so that never make it into book form. Ideas I play with, that may one day turn into something, but then again, that may not. Plus the blogs and the tweets and the emails. I’ve learned to type faster.

But I don’t do it because of my fabulous work ethic. I guess it’s just what I do. Because it’s who I am. And what I like.

And because it’s the only way to get the voices in my head to shut up.

So what about you? What’s writing to you? Hobby? Work? Compulsion? Or fun? Maybe something in between?


Annette said...

How about all of the above? Well, not hobby. Just in case the IRS guys are reading this, WRITING IS NOT MY HOBBY. But work? Yeah. Fun? Absolutely. Compulsion? No doubt about it. I get severely grouchy when I don't get to write for several days.

And for the record, you may not consider it your work ethic, but 20K in a week is astounding! Bente, you rock!

Joyce said...

As hard as I try, I can't keep up with you, Bente! You write more on your bad days than I do on good days.

Writing is definitely a job for me. I spend at least six to eight hours a day at the computer. Some days I have to force words onto the page, but eventually they get there.

Ramona said...

I'm in a bit of a different position, but I work all the time. It's work and it's fun. But is working all the time compulsion, work ethic or wanting to pay the bills? I don't know. My wrists are begging me to take a break, though!

Karen in Ohio said...

Bente, I'm so looking forward to where you take all your characters next. Just so you know that all this hard work is appreciated!

When I had the idea to write my first actual book, which was nonfiction, I was compelled, maybe even propelled, to write it. There was no way I could NOT write the thing; it called to me so insistently. I've written other books, and countless articles, but none of them ever spoke to me so loudly that every other thought was drowned out. When I was ready to write, I sat down for six weeks and just pounded it out.

I've never really expressed this to anyone else, but somehow I suspect you guys will understand. :-) Just wish that a fictional story would present itself that way.

Gina said...

Hobby, fun, compulsion - wish it could be work. Does anyone out there want to represent me? publish my manuscripts? pony up a few $million to produce my screenplays?

I'm like you, Bente, writing all the time, either working on the computer or plotting things out. One of the people I collaborated on two screenplays with called last week, wanting me to work with him on another one. We have our first meeting this weekend. So, even though the only money that's ever passed through my hands in connection with movie writing was on its way out - mostly to Pittsburgh Filmmakers for classes - I'm excited.

Jenna said...

LOL! Glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way!

Ironically, my word verification is 'mated.' I guess we're all a perfect match!

Patg said...

Guilty obsession. Oh, those thousands of words that come to nothing. My delete finger is sore.

Misa said...

All. None. It's a passion. A compulsion. Sometimes a chore. Often times it's something I have to squeeze in.

Congrats on writing THE END!!