Pat Dobie is my (yes, she is so good that I lay claim to her talents lest she become so busy and famous I am left in her wake with all of my horrible mistakes such as writing Pale when I mean Pail) editor. And she is truly wonderful at taking my rough pecking and breathing ever more life into it.
She is a writer's defibrillator.
She is also a writer who understands what it means to live a writing life:
I have a keen appreciation of the fact that death might be around the corner—after all, the idea that we're going to die of old age is just an idea.
So I like to get things done. In my case, the thing I like to get done is writing novels. That’s kind of a ridiculous pursuit, but it’s what I’m into.
In a way I’m no different than a knitter or a woodworker, except my raw material is words, and my product is an experience for the reader. Novels aren't quite as practical as sweaters or tables but, on the plus side, more people can use them—a reader can wear stories for a few days, almost like a hat, and have an experience they wouldn't otherwise have had. Do you remember being a kid, running to the library to read through every book by your latest favorite writer?
I’m into making books like that.
In order to make these purely optional experiences—I mean, nobody’s exclaiming ‘The world needs more novels!’—hard choices must be made about how to live.
First, there’s the question of time. As writer Harry Crews says, “If you wait until you got time to write a novel, or time to write a story, or time to read the hundred thousands of books you should have already read—if you wait for the time, you will never do it. ‘Cause there ain’t no time; world don’t want you to do that. World wants you to go to the zoo and eat cotton candy, preferably seven days a week.”
He’s right, isn’t he? I know it. I own a business, work long hours, have kids and a partner, friends and family, and do a fair amount of living in the world.
But what I have found is that it’s not really about the time. It’s more about giving myself the energy to use time wisely. I’m always trying new tricks: meditation, exercise, retreats, down time (okay, I have a problem with taking down time). But I have learned that I need to look after my mental, physical and emotional energy every day, so that whatever time I carve out for my writing isn’t wasted in slack-jawed inaction or frenzied despair.
Living the writing life really means living my non-writing hours—family, work, friends, chores and all—in a way that gives me enough juice to get my ass in the chair and make something good with whatever time I have.