Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Writing Time

“And here was another familiar sensation, back for a return visit after four years: that anger at the telephone, the urge to simply rip it out of the wall and fire it across the room. Why did the whole world have to call while I was writing?” – Stephen King, Bag of Bones

When I first started seriously writing I had the good misfortune of being rather underemployed. It sucked from a financial perspective (the ripples of that time are still, well, ripping today; it’s a lot harder to build up than it is to draw down), but it was fantastic for writing. Once I was awake and morning responsibilities out of the way I could write, write, write. Write until I was done. Sometimes it was three hours, sometimes four, once in a great while, more than that. The end of the writing day found me with pretty much an empty writing tank, and a particularly bleary feeling that was very, very satisfying. Now, I have to find a way to squeeze the writing in and around the work schedule, and it’s not easy. Instead of the ringing telephone disturbing me as it did for Stephen King’s Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones, it’s the little clock on the bottom right of the computer screen.

Right now, the best, most productive time I have for writing is between the time I wake up and the time I have to go to work. Unfortunately, that’s not a lot of time, and that time also includes making coffee and just trying to get myself into gear. I start work at 7 (though most days my commute is just down a flight of stairs, I have no drive to deal with) which gives me an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes to write as much as I can. It’s just not enough. I find myself eyeballing that little digital display on the bottom right of the screen and hating it and resenting the job that’s about to tear me away from the make believe world I’m creating (Note, I really like my job, but not in those moments!). Worse, when I hit my time deadline, the tank is not empty. It leaves me feeling itchy inside, or like when you load up for a big sneeze that just doesn’t happen. You want that sneeze, you need that sneeze, but you don’t get that sneeze.

The solution is to either get up even earlier (I see a twitter hashtag for the 5am writers club or something like that) or to just break up the writing day into several small segments. Get in an hour or so before work, and then just find a way to carve out an hour here, and hour or two there. The immediate post-work time period is not great, though: in addition to just not having the right energy or mindset, there are things that need to be done to help run the household. Night? I have done night writing before, and now that the Bruins’ season is unfortunately over, there’s less “required” hockey viewing. In the end, it all comes down to this: do I want to write? As long as the answer is “yes”, then it’s up to me to figure out how to get it done.

On another note…

I received a very nice review last week on Literary Titan for Powerless, and I’m also expecting another one to be posted soon at the Portland Book Review. The responses I’m receiving from early readers has been very positive so far, and it’s very exciting!

2 Responses

  1. Yes. Finding–and protecting–your writing time can be a challenge. People who don’t write don’t understand that their text/phone call or poking in their head with “Do you have just a sec” can sabotage the groove you were in. Like, smash it with a mallet like your picture.

  2. Thanks, Donna. I write in a “public area” of the house and used to hand a handwritten “Don’t Poke the Bear” sign over my desk when I was writing. It worked! Writing from 6-7am has kind of made that unnecessary now.

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