03 May, 2018

This Novel Won't Write Itself

Those who asked after the progress of my novel, in the years since I wrote the accidental first piece of it, were usually told that I'd finish it sometime between next month and the inevitable heat death of the universe. I would not be pressured. Ever capricious, the Muse visits episodically.

Being beholden to the Muse's comings and goings is a terrible way to write. Some days I'd manage to bang out pages of content and feel as though I finally had some momentum going. Then months would pass while I futzed around with nonsense. Research made a handy excuse: "I can't write that part until after reading the Koran" and "I'm stuck here until someone sends me that information about injectable testosterone" were both effective stalls. Most often, though, my available time to write got arrogated by personal correspondence.

The realization struck me hard, about a month ago, that I was never going to be a novelist at this rate. Something had to change, and only I could change it.

Finding time is one matter, but when a thing's important enough you make time for it. True to form, I buckled down and made ready. I blocked off weekdays, from 8 AM to 2 PM, as dedicated writing time. I made a sign to hang on my door, which reads, WRITING — DO NOT DISTURB. I decided in advance that my only allowable deviations from routine would be for institutional appointments, unavoidable phone calls, and, once a week, an hour of morning recreation.

I mailed out a final batch of letters. I told my friends that I was embarking on a long trip in my one-man craft, during which time I'd be, as though on a long sea voyage, largely incommunicado. The responses that I got back were encouraging. "See you on the other side" and "May the wind be always at your back" were my favorites.

The novel, I'm pleased to report, is coming along well. I don't find it unreasonable to think that I'll have a polished manuscript ready by year's end. (I'm already ahead of the loose schedule I set myself.) The trick is not taking my eyes off the horizon.

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