My goal has been to post here once a month, at least, and since the deadline is coming up fast, here I am. You see, I never miss my deadlines. Never. Really.
It feels congenital but it’s probably all due to the years I spent as a journalist. Writing for newspapers and magazines, if you miss your deadlines, you lose your job, you don’t eat, etc. etc.
When readers ask me to talk about my writing process, I think they want to hear about inspiration. They ask, Do I dream about my characters? Do I “channel” them? (That is my least favorite question; writing is work not magic.)
But what I talk about is deadlines. For some reason, this often elicits laughter. It’s so… unartistic. So real-world.
When writing a book, I have the Big Deadline: the date on the book contract. But there are many intermediary deadlines, too. By the end of next week I will have another 12-15 pages drafted to show to my writing group. By summer’s end, I will have at least 125 pages drafted. Bite-sized deadlines make the BD less terrifying.
There are so many metaphors about the writing process. And oldie but a goodie from Red Smith: “Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”
For me, writing is like working with clay; you find and refine the shape of the book. Writing is also like spinning; making a neat line of yard out of a messy ball of the subconscious.
Here’s the image that rings truest for me at the moment (thanks to Steve McCauley who attributed it to E. L. Doctorow); writing a novel is like driving down a very dark road and all you can see is as far as your own headlights.
That’s where I am: knuckles white as I clutch the steering wheel, trying to keep from driving off the road, determined to meet my next #@$! deadline.