Sunday, March 30, 2008

a conversation between writers

This afternoon, while sitting in Caribou Coffee (my new "Uncle Jon's" for my southeastern Massachusetts readers), a woman sitting next to me noticed the stack of papers loosely balanced on my gradebook, which was loosely balanced on my lap; and me, pencil in hand and glasses perched on nose, reading.
"Are you a teacher?" she asked.
"What gave it away?" I said with a smile.
"What do you teach?"
I told her.
She then said, "I'm trying to be a writer."
I find this an odd statement. How does one "try" to be a writer? Instead of asking the question, I instead asked her about what she wrote, etc.
"I'm working on a screenplay," she said.

I went back to reading annotated bibliographies when she asked, "So do you have any tips for writing?"
I looked up and smiled again.
"That depends on what you're writing." I asked her to describe the genre of the screenplay, and she did.
Finally, I said, "Write the first draft for yourself. Write the screenplay of the movie you would want to see. Then, when you revise, think about the reader (or viewer) who is less familiar w/ this genre, and envision that person seeing your movie. How do you hook that person?"
She thought about it and nodded in agreement. She liked this advice.

We talked a little bit more, and it turned out she had attended one of my good friend Jesse's panel events on getting an agent and getting published. (I was subconsciously channeling Jesse when mentioning the value of a good cover letter, and the Guide to Literary Agents.) Later in the day, while meeting Jesse for our own writers group session, I enjoyed telling him about the conversation w/ this aspiring writer, and that his events are making an impression on aspiring writers. I even told him about the "tip" I gave her, and he looked at me w/ sincerity.
"That's a very thoughtful tip, and a good one at that," he said. I always appreciate Jesse's sincerity.

Writing is mostly a solitary act, so I suppose that's why writers like to talk to other writers about their craft. I never even got this woman's name; but the few minutes exchanged in talking about what we've written, what we care about as writers, made my day.

Better still, after I'd finished the student papers, I finally broke through my writers block -- WOO-HOO! -- and got several pages of longhand done for the new novel, as well as a cramp from my hand to my wrist and up my arm (it's been awhile since I did that much longhand in that short span of time, and if I'm inspired, I need to write quickly to keep up w/ my brain -- it's worth it, though). Maybe because I took my own advice and stopped trying so hard. I wrote a few pages of a scene I would want to read. It's a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

writng, talking, thinking

I've been having a great time with my writing classes and groups the past few days because we're not only talking about writing, but just talking. And all this talk has gotten me to do a lot of thinking.

I spent this past weekend on the coast in a gorgeous beach house, the sound of the surf always looming in the background. I brought my laptop w/ me, of course; and yet, everytime I sat down to write, I stared at a blank screen.
As my PIC would say, shitters.
Perhaps I just needed time to think. Think about my characters, their voices, their truths, etc. Perhaps I haven't done enough talking. I need to talk about them. I need to talk to them.

What I have been thinking about lately, however, is how much I love being a writer. I've also been thinking about the things that used to juice me as a writing teacher, and those things have gotten lost along the way. It's like a marriage that starts to go stale, after the romance fades. You need to go back to the place where you had your first date, the songs you used to listen to, the shows you watched, the conversations you had, etc. This week seems to have been about rekindling the romance.

God, I love being a writer. That love is beyond romance; it is eternal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

a different kind of hunger

At the time of this writing, I've got one novel finished, one novel very close to finished, one novel in pieces, one novel just beginning, and one novel in the idea phase. Additionally, I've got two nonfiction book ideas. And I want to work on all of them. Right now. I want them finished by tomorrow.

How does one do it? How do those in any creative endeavor practice their craft and make a living at the same time?

I witnessed my brothers live in shit apartments, have to wash dishes in bathroom sinks, scrounge five dollars in loose change to put gas in their car (that wouldn't get them around the block these days), and take menial jobs that worked around their music gigs. And their music gigs included playing in wedding and bar mitzvah bands, boat "cruises" that circled the Sound, college campuses (when bands played at colleges), etc. Not exactly their idealized dream. One brother worked as a mechanic and hated the cold; one gave guitar lessons to tone-deaf kids; one eventually quit the music business and now has a lucrative job in computer IT support industry (and I'm probably demoting him quite a bit, as he always tells me I do when I try to describe his job). I've heard of actors who do the stereotypical bartending/wait-staffing. Stephen King worked in a laundromat. Cormac McCarthy lived out of cars at one time, I think. Artists starve for their craft. And they hunger for other things, I suppose. We all do.

And me? I teach college writing. I have an apartment w/ a swimming pool and central air and dishwasher and washer/dryer hookup. I have benefits. And I wanna keep it all. But where does that leave me time to work on my five projects? How do I prioritize?

Late last year I was making inquiries about going back to school to get an MFA in Creative Writing. The degree would do absolutely nothing to bolster my career--despite the fact that it's a terminal degree, I'd likely wind up in another non-tenure-track position teaching first-year writing, especially since Creative Writing teaching positions are far and few between. I wanted to do it primarily so I could write full-time and be part of a writing community. I also thought it might help me network in circles I'm not currently privy to. I visited one school, and the advisor talked to me for hours, finally saying, "There are a lot of good reasons to do it, and there are just as many good reasons not to do it."

I had decided to apply to the program, based on the rationale that if I was financially independent, I would do it. I've often made such decisions, and was never disappointed. I was also a lot younger when I'd made those decisions. I see it in my friends in their forties and fifties, especially. Security makes their decisions. I used to think they were operating under a lack of trust. Now I understand perfectly. I'm operating from the same place. There were other factors that contributed to my decision; but ultimately, I decided not to apply and not to pursue the degree.

Don't get me wrong-- I love my work. But teaching is time-consuming, especially out of the classroom, and it's no longer what I want to devote my time to. I want to be a full-time writer and I want to maintain the comforts I worked so hard to get (and I still don't make enough to own my own home). I wonder if I'm lacking the discipline or tenacity to become a self-supporting writer, if I'm not networking in the right places, if I have a fear of failure, or maybe a fear of success, even. I don't know. All I know is that I'm not willing to give up what I already have, and I don't know how to acquire what I don't.

In the meantime, my writing projects sit on the shelf, give or take a few pages saved when inspiration hits every now and then. Hell, my first book took four years to get it to finished. How long will the others take? It scares me.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

fanning the flame

The other day, I gave my class a lesson on the difference between paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting. Keep in mind that I teach academic writing as opposed to creative writing. And this wasn't necessarily the kind of writing I wanted to blog about. Nor did I want this to be a blog about teaching. But this has been sticking in my mind.

Since I'd just finished the Stephen King book (On Writing) on audio, I decided to dig out my print copy and use a page or two from it as part of the day's lesson/activity. I used the chapter that opens, "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things: write a lot and read a lot." (I shouldn't be directly quoting, here -- I don't think I've got it verbatim, but truth be told I'm too lazy to get up and get my book.) The activity was for them to read the two-three pages I had provided them with, and then they needed to summarize those three pages, and write a second paragraph about writing in which they'd have to bring King in as a source.

As I walked around the room, observing the students' progress, one student, a male, asked me where the passage came from. I told him.
"I liked this very much. I think I might like to read this book."
I was elated, and I over-enthusiastically encouraged him to do so.

Thing is, I'm thinking about going to the used bookstore to see if they have a copy, and buying it for him.

I've had these urges (for lack of a better word) before. I've been tempted to buy certain students journals or a novel or something to fan the spark of interest into a flame. I'm always wary of playing favorites, however, and other students finding out that the teacher is buying presents. Not to mention the ethics, as well as appearances, especially in this day and age. My giving a book to a male student? Yikes.

So I'm at a loss for what to do. I'm thinking of giving it to him at the end of the semester. Maybe. It's nagging at me, though. It's that moment of opportunity and I don't wanna succumb to fear -- I've let too many of those moments slip by before, and regret them.
What to do?

So, this post really isn't about writing after all, but it is about my being so in love with the craft that I want to pass it on to others. And, perhaps, it's about my loving my students as well. And that is worth writing about.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

careful, or you'll wind up in my novel

This past Christmas, my sister presented me w/ a sweatshirt bearing the words of this post's title . And although it's not something I would wear in public (too cheesy), I love it.

Since I learned to put words together on a page, I have been writing about what I know, or what I have witnessed. The very first story I wrote (to my memory, at least) was in the first grade. My teacher showed me a picture and asked me to make up a story about it. The picture was of a boy reaching for a cookie jar. I remember writing that the boy had come home from school and wanted a snack, but the cookie jar was out of his reach. There was no one to help him-- his sibs were at school, his mother was at work, and his father was "busy giving a guitar lesson" (I even remember spelling "gitar," instinctively knowing it was misspelled, but not being able to determine the missing letter). Resourcefully, the boy grabbed a chair, climbed to the counter, and retrieved his reward.

I can only imagine how revealing this must have been to my teacher. I essentially had absorbed my surroundings: my mother was working (a rarity to have a working mother in those days, especially a mother of seven); my father, who was out of work at the time, tried to pull some much needed income by teaching guitar to local parishioners; and my older brothers and sisters were absorbed in their own lives. I suppose that when you grow up in a large family, everyone, at some point or another, is bound to feel neglected. Of course, I didn't convey feelings of neglect, nor was I old enough to know how much my father hated having to give those lessons, and how close we were to losing our house. Nevertheless, that was life in my house in 1976. That's what I saw. I must have been particularly pleased at the resolution of the boy's resourcefulness and boldness to climb the chair, unafraid of the struggle, defying the danger and warnings from mom. And it's a theme that's particularly meaningful to me today, unmarried and living alone at 38: resourcefulness in the face of fending for yourself when no one else is around.

I've been doing it ever since--writing what I know, that is-- and have rarely been afraid to expose the truth in all its vulnerablity and nakedness, and sometimes ugliness, too. I put it out on the table. In my nonfiction, I am not afraid to write about the drain of spirit that comes from loving someone who does not love me back. I am not afraid to write about longing. I am not afraid to write about how, when the twin towers came down, it was the loss of the buildings I mourned because the loss of humanity was too magnificent and powerful and overwhelming to mourn. I am not afraid to write about the hypocrisy of some Catholic priests; about the possibility of forgiving terrorists; about the love I have for my grandmother; about being a Yankee fan in Red Sox nation (and thank God that's over with!). The personal essay is a powerful force.

It happens in my fiction, too. I give credit to fantasy and science fiction writers who are able to imagine and then write about worlds and beings that do not look or sound or act familiar. The closest I ever came to making something up was when I wrote a parody of The Three Bears in sixth grade. I seem to remember the bears playing poker and eating pizza and being wise-asses (come to think of it, it was also my first attempt at writing comedy. And maybe the pizza-eating wise-asses were my brothers in disguise...). For the longest time I didn't write fiction because I didn't think I knew how. I didn't know how to have an imagination that went beyond the boundaries of my Long Island, Beatle-loving, music-playing, big Italian family world.

And so, when in 1999 I got the first spark of an idea for a novel, I told myself that I couldn't write it, and continued to tell myself that until I started reading more fiction, and also started to think about writers like Nora Ephron and Woody Allen, whose work I enjoyed. When I finally decided to give my idea (which had grown consdierably since the '99 seedling), I decided to write it for me, and on the title page, I typed a quote that had been attributed to Toni Morrison: I wrote the book I wanted to read. And so, I began using what I knew as the starting point, the comfrot zone, if you will. 30-something writing teacher. Lived in MA and moved back to LI. Brothers (not as many of 'em) are working musicians. In time, the characters and settings took on lives of their own. And the truths I was telling was in response to things I had either witnessed or simply needed to be told.

I remember when my dear friend and reader of my first novel thought I was writing about my real-life relationship w/ his cousin. Even the names were similar. "Not so," I said. "I knew this guy (meaning the character), including his name, long before I knew your cousin." And yet, there are one or two lines that the character says that came straight out of the cousin's mouth, and my protagonist's response was, in actuality, mine. I used it because it worked in the story. I used it because I knew and understood it. I used it because it was true.

But that's not to say that every character or setting or situation is based on someone or somplace or something I actually know. That main character in my novel is a completely fabricated guy. Yeah, he happened to say the same thing my real-life friend said one time, but that's the only thing that was "real" about him. The mother in my two novels is nothing like my real mother. Other times, my characters are composites of two or three people I know. Sometimes they're even inspired by other fictional characters.

So, where's the fine line? Am I writing fiction, or am I writing creative (very creative) nonfiction? I argue that I'm writing fiction in the way that my very first story about the boy and the cookie jar was fiction. As a writer, I am a witness. As a writer, I have a truth that needs to be told. As a fiction writer, I use a combination of what I know and what I imagine to tell that truth. As a nonfiction writer, the stories of the past become recontextualized for the truths of the present.

And, let's face it: I have absolute power.
In fiction, I can have the relationship I wanted to have with this guy. In fiction, I can be rich, I can travel, I can be six feet tall, I can eat as much chocolate as I want, live wherever I want, meet whomever I want, and be whomever I want to be. I can make fun of my own quirks and annoying habits (which I often do), and my protagonists can be w/out my insecurities. So long as I'm honoring the truth in the process. So long as I tell the story that wants or needs to be told. And maybe I should use a capital T for truth. Maybe I should refer to Picasso: Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.

That's what I'm talkin' about, baby. That's what it's really all about.

In the meantime, watch out, for one day you may find yourself reading my book, only to realize the scene with the guy sitting in the coffeeshop drinking his latte bears a striking resemblance to the Starbucks we used to go to, and the guy looks a little like you... Or you may read a personal essay about the day we went to the beach together, and re-live it in a whole new way.

Friday, March 7, 2008

On Reading

I have been listening to Stephen King's On Writing in my car this week. My twin brother gave me this book for Christmas the year it came out, and I devoured it before the new year began. It had quite an affect on me in several ways. One, because I was writing predominantly memoir, I was appreciative of that part of the book, and wrote several of my own literacy narratives in response. Two, his chapter on the importance of being a reader really struck a chord. At the time, I had just completed my bachelors degree and had just begun my masters, and "pleasure reading" had been moved to the back burner -- no, the back of the fridge in an old tupperware container to get moldy and crusty. Not only that, but I'd been harboring insecurities about what consitituted being "well read" and feared I fell way short.

I suppose that what I read at the time met the needs of what I'd written at the time -- a lot of academic argument, textbooks, case studies, etc. And let's not forget all the student writing I had (and have) to get through. In the literal sense, I was very well-read. I was reading all the time. But King's words gnawed at me. This wasn't the kind of reading he was advocating, at least I didn't think it was. I have to read more fiction, I decided. Or more memoirs, since that was what I was writing at the time.

But I was so damn picky. Besides, I complained, I just don't have time for pleasure reading.

I'm trying to remember when I got really serious and committed to reading. I know it was a New Year's resolution, one of the few I've kept, I just don't remember which year. But I started with books that I knew or authors that I liked (I started reading Nora Ephron's stuf, for instance) and then went to work on books that my twin or someone else I admired recommended to me. My reading The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald), Life of Pi (eek, his name is on the tip of my tongue! So sorry!), A Prayer For Owen Meany (Irving), and A Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez) was the result of the guy I'd had a crush on putting these books into my hand (he bought Owen Meany for me from a used bookstore, and it took me a year to even open it, since I was devastated that he did not return my affections) -- of them, I had the most difficulty w/ Solitude. One of my good friends described it as "trying to ride a merry-go-round and watch a movie at the same time... I liken it to a fever dream" and I never did finish the last ten pages before returning the book to Mr. I-Just-Wanna-Be-Friends. Interestingly, I don't think he ever read a single book I recommended.

In between all that, I picked books up here and there, and discovered audiobooks to ease my commute when I was traveling across state lines daily for awhile. I usually chose audiobooks based on things I wouldn't normally pick up to actually read. I got the Harry Potter books done that way, a couple of John Grisham novels, and more, some memorable, some not. I fell in love w/ both Bill Bryson's voice and writing thanks to audiobooks.

The result of this, plus watching the West Wing and becoming a pathetic Aaron Sorkin fan, was that my writing -- in particular, my fiction writing -- got good.

And I finally started reading chick-lit when I'd realized that's what I was writing. Yes, it's not like I was a chick-lit fan prior to that. It helped especially during the agent-query process and the pitch, because now I had something to match my book up against. More importantly, I saw what I didn't want to write in terms of the genre. I also knew I was on the right track, and dammit, I have good ideas. And guys like my stuff too... I think I've already established that.

Something else happened, too. I had always liked to read, but I think in the last few years I've fallen in love with reading, and that feeling grows stronger the older I get. My wombmate actually works in a bookstore, and I know it's because he likes the feeling of being surrounded by the books. I know how he feels now.

A few weeks ago, I had a class in which my students started asking me what kinds of books I liked to read, and had I ever read this guy or that gal, and they shared the one or two books that they'd read and liked. I suspected they just wanted to get out of the day's work, but something really wonderful was happening. I sense they were getting a whiff of the passion I had for reading, and very much wanted to like it too.
"I just can't concentrate on a whole book," one of them said. "I just don't have time," said another. And I knew these excuses all too well. I also knew they bred an insecurity underneath: if I'm not "well-read" will I also not be well-liked?
"So read in small increments. Read ten minutes a day. Read the sports page daily. Read your favorite graphic novel. It counts. Read a blog. Read something short. Then work your way up."
Their eyes lit up at the possibility, at the permission, at the acceptance. Right on.

So thanks, Stephen. Good advice, there.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

the right word

A dear friend of mine recently replied to an email I'd sent him. He was one of the very first readers of my first novel -- read the whole thing in two days (of course, it was about 20,000 words shy of today's manuscript, but still...), and he had just known me for those two days. Since then he's become one of my biggest fans. Mind you, in terms of fiction, I write chick-lit. I know. I know the kind of respect chick-lit gets. I know the reputation it has. My fiction does not move mountains and will not be on any reading lists at Harvard (unless Harvard creates the chick-lit course, and if so, sign me up!!). But, it makes people laugh and even think, and that's most important to me. Heck, it makes me happy.

Anyhoo, I digress. I brought up this point because this guy is *not* a chick-lit reader. He's a geologist. He's one of the leading experts on Mars geology. He's a scientist and brilliant. And he digs my writing.

Back to the email. I'd sent him my most recent manuscript, a sequel to the first novel. I also told him about my progress w/ getting an agent. Slow, of course. In turn, he offered these words of support: Hang in there, go with your heart, and keep producing those loving manuscripts. The recognition will come.

What so moves me about this is his referral to my manuscripts as "loving." Wow. He nailed it, too. Talk about the right word...

As far as I'm concerned, writing is a selfish act, a social act, or a spiritual act, sometimes all at the same time. I doubt my good friend meant "loving" in the spiritual sense (he's an atheist), but that's what it means to me. Even when it's not working, when I'm struggling, when I wanna throw my laptop out the window, I know that it's not just a cognitive brain function. It's not just a cultural product of language. It's not just a psychological need to be liked or recognized or remembered. Something happens in the process of creation. Many musicians and artists will tell you the same thing. They don't know where it comes from, or how it happens. The thing just wants to be born. And that's the connection it makes with the recipient or the witness of it. Magical, I guess, in a mystical sort of way.

So thanks, dear friend. As far as I'm concerned, you've touched on the best part of me, and my writing, in your own words.

Monday, March 3, 2008

stage one: invention

I'm currently in the planning stages of a new novel, and I'm co-writing it w/ a dear friend of mine to whom I'll affectionately refer as PIC (partner in crime). The challenges of this collaboration stem from two factors: one, she lives in the northeast and I live in the southeast. Two, she's in the process of studying for her state medical boards. That's right; she's in the process of becoming a chiropractor. Make no mistake, however; she's a writer. It's just not her day job, as some would say.

The idea for this particular novel was born out of a real-life situation, as is much of my fiction. There's a fine line between comedy and tragedy, and while nursing my broken heart, I clearly saw the comedic moment. And when I emailed PIC about it, and how it would make a good opening to a novel, she wrote back: you. must. write. that. book. Then she asked to be my partner in crime on it. Without PIC, my first novel wouldn't be as good as it is today. No one knows those characters as well as she does, no one talked about them or cared about them as she did, as if they were real people. If only she were an agent. And we proved to be effective collaborators when we co-wrote a draft of the screenplay for that novel. So I didn't need to cogitate twice (sorry about that -- private joke) before telling her that we were most certainly gonna co-write this novel.

Thus, for the past couple of weeks we've been shooting ideas and character names (names are a big thing for me) and snippets of conversations and freewrites back and forth. I am incessantly evil because I lack total regard for the fact that she needs to study and I continue to tempt an distract her as I move the project forward. She is incessantly evil because she lives in a place where it constantly snows and she doesn't want to uproot her or husband's life to move down here, where it would not only be warmer but more convenient to collaborate.

As of right now, the novel lacks the picky detail known as the plot. So last night we tried to sketch out the basics: girl has blog; girl breaks up w/ guy; girl sets out to meet new guy; blog goes up in smoke; that sort of thing. (I know, doesn't sound like an interesting novel -- I'm leaving out the good stuff.) Here's what this post is really all about. This morning, I received an email from PIC that contained all these wonderful questions about both protagonist and plot to ponder over. And I wondered why I didn't think of them myself. Or maybe I've been thinking about them all along and never wrote them down. So I enthusiastically answered them and came up w/ some new what-if questions and sent them back to her. My point is that the process is part of the fun. The questions, the pondering, the what-ifs, the snippets of conversations in my head and in email. The Classical Greeks would call it Invention. Invention rocks.

All I can say is thank god for email and IM and Word. Otherwise we'd be spending a helluva lot of time and money snail-mailing this stuff back and forth. Hell, I'd probably insist that she move. Why her and not me? Who the hell moves back into the cold? (Future post: why writing is oftentimes the ultimate selfish act.)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

every day

Question: Do you write every day?

Answer: Well, yeah. Didn't you read the previous post?

The question goes more to the idea of discipline. Many successful, experienced writers recommend setting a specific time and place to write every day. I think it's good advice, and Lord knows I've tried it many times over, but I've never really gotten the hang of it. I can list several reasons (excuses) why.

1. Time management. I suck at it. All my life. Every job evaluation I've ever received has criticized me for poor time management. I blame it on being Italian. The Italians are stereotypically notorious for being poor planners. And really, when you live in Italy, who wants to plan anything? The only time I effectively managed my time was during the final months of my masters thesis. I accounted for and scheduled every moment of the day save bathroom breaks. And doing so worked, too. I almost always stuck to the schedule. Of course, I would spontaneously break out in bouts of weeping every so often, but it didn't throw me off schedule.

The key to my success back then was that I did everything in 60 - 90 minute increments with lots of breaks in between. I devoted between 90 and 180 minutes per day to my thesis, depending on which day it was. And that time could be used in a number of ways--either to read and annotate an article, to work on a chapter, to re-read the previous chapter, the aforementioned weeping, etc.

I haven't had many deadlines since then--certainly not any where a diploma or a paycheck depended on it. I've had word count quotas, though. When I did nanowrimo (for more info, see, I usually wrote every night before bedtime, and didn't stop until I hit 2000 words. As it turned out, this was a bad idea and one of the reasons why I won't do nanowrimo anymore. It gave way to very bad, wordy, passive writing and a hellish revision process. I've still got a manuscript in shambles because of it.

2. Flexible work hours. In terms of my personality and work-type, this is a bonus for me. I never liked the 9-5 Mon-Fri workweek. As a college instructor, my teaching schedule changes every four months, more or less. I love the variety, and so long as that schedule does not involve 8am or Saturday classes, then I'm all set. The downside? I have difficulty sticking to other kinds of routines, such as mealtimes, exercise, and, of course, writing. And when it's time to grade papers? Forget it. And I almost always have a stack of papers to read and respond to.

3. Process. Wasn't it Truman Capote who was sitting in a cafe w/ a friend, and the friend asked, "Did you write anything today?"
He answered, "I wrote one word today."
"One word? You only wrote one word all day?"
"Yes," he answered, "But it was the right word."
Some days I just don't write physically. I need the time to think. To compose in my mind before I put it on the page. My first novel came rather quickly to me in terms of the physical act of writing. The reason? I'd had the idea since 1999 and had five years to think about it before deciding to actually write it (that's a story for another post: when I found out I could write fiction). This past summer, I read over a dozen books, but got to the point where I was not writing very much -- at least nothing of significance. But I thought about those writing projects, every day. And eventually, I was ready to get back to the page.

It's the eventually that's the problem, though. Because sometimes it does take too long. Sometimes I get writers block, get scared that it's never gonna get done. Sometimes I succumb to watching the same Law&Order CI re-run for the umptieth time. At that point, discipline has to be a decision, a commitment, without shoulding all over yourself for not getting on the ball sooner.

My latest novel takes place in a cafe/bookstore. The protagonist is the owner. And lately I've been having fantasies of following in her footsteps. But here's the thing: I want to own it, not run it. I want to be in it, not work in it. Imagine being able to make a living as a writer! Imagine being a full-time novelist! I envy you, Stephen King. I actually saw Cormac McCarthy's one and only interview w/ Oprah Winfrey, of all people, and I was fascinated by his discussion about knowing that he never wanted to work for a living. Somehow, before he got published and sold movie rights, he survived w/out working. How? How does one choose that? I won't even go back to get my PhD or MFA because I have cable and want to keep it just so I can watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report! More importantly, because I have health insurance! I may even be able to get my own washer-dryer soon!

My point is this: if I could live as a full-time writer, then I would certainly be better at setting my own hours to write. Or so I say; Lord help me when the Law&Order CI marathon comes on again. But dear reader, dear aspiring writer, if you can, write every day. Make it a decision, a commitment. Write something, anything. Write at 8:00 every morning or 9:00 every night. Write one word. Write the right word. Just write.