Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Writer's Isolation

I recently (see: still in the middle of it) took a vacation for the sole purpose of writing.  The idea was simple: take a trip to a familiar location where I wouldn’t be distracted by the urge to sight see or enjoy the outdoors, take only my laptop loaded with music and Microsoft Word, and complete as much of my new novel “Rage” as possible.

It wasn’t a popular idea.  To my wife, who I have to defend by saying that I left her with an 11-month old son to care for by herself, she just couldn’t understand why I didn’t stay at home and write there.  My family couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay at a hotel, cut off from society.  Only fellow writers, of whom I only have a few that I consider more than passing acquaintances, understood what I was doing.

I was, for the first time since finishing my science fiction trilogy, Brink of Distinction, dedicating myself to my craft.

Being in the Army, there have been numerous times that I’ve been required to stay late to complete projects or, more often than not, just to get yelled at for something I did or failed to do.  I would leave for work at 5:30 am and not get home until after 11:00 pm (2300 for my European and military friends).  Although that frustrated my family and friends, they understood, since the Army is my occupation of choice.  When dealing with your job, it’s expected that sometimes you’ll just have to work some overtime to get a project completed.

Why is that different when it comes to writing?

I’ve read numerous articles about the “process of writing”.  Nearly every one gives the same advice, which is “force yourself to write at least 30 minutes every day”.  I’ve tried, but what I’ve found happens if I do that is that my work is complete rubbish.  I FEEL like I’m “forcing” myself to write, which lowers the quality of the product that I produce.  I think the original trilogy came out as well as it did because I was completely passionate about damn near every word I put on the page.  If I lack that passion and write a novel just because it’s being “forced”, how can I honestly expect the quality to match my expectations?

Though my writer’s vacation has not been popular, I will say that it’s been highly productive and, in my eyes, beneficial.  I found my optimal writing time (2200 – 0200, unfortunately), and have completed nearly 100 pages in the novel over only three days.  At this pace, I will have “Rage” done shortly after I return to the Seattle area.

And, since “Rage” represents such a personal topic with me (and you too, Ed), if I’m not passionate about the work, how can I expect these very real issues to be represented as well as possible on the paper?  There’s a whole different blog that I’ll post someday talking about the similarities between my life that those of Jonas Vega, the main character from “Rage”.

The moral of this entire post is this: I consider writing as much an occupation as my job in the Army.  Yes, it is entirely supplemental income and could never sustain me and my family if I did it full time.  Currently, I’m up to an astounding $3,000 US annually in royalties off all three books.  However, writing was never about making money.  It was about writing and completing something as astounding as a 300-400 page novel from scratch; something that people genuinely are excited about reading.  But if writing is a job for me, then isn’t it understandable that sometimes, like these ten days of my writer’s isolationist vacation, when I’m going to have to do a little overtime?