Two kids, one of whom is not yet two, a handful of part-time jobs, husband, dogs, fish, laundry, dinner--how do I have time to write a novel?
Sometimes I shake my head and say, “I have no idea. It’s a great big mystery.”
But that’s partaking in the stereotype of writing as a mysterious, elusive process. As if the characters just appear and whisper in your ear, “Here I am, in green pants, a green suit coat and the greens don’t match.” As if the plot appears from these characters as a fully formed dream. As if the pages flow from the fingers.
Like most writers, I work at the edges of the day. Early morning. Late at night. A babysitter who comes and watches the little one, giving me the luxury to stretch out in a big acre of time.
But my friend, my enemy, my companion, my task master is the Timer. A simple thing, less than $5.00, I believe it’s supposed to be used in the kitchen. Instead, it sits on my desk and I set it for thirty minutes. The implicit agreement between Timer and me is that I cannot move from my chair until the beeper goes off. Something is cooking, all right. A new novel, page by page, hour by hour, something—a story? I’m fully aware that I made the terms of the contract; hence, I could, of course, rewrite the terms with no strong argument from the Timer. But I don’t. I sit and write until I hear the beep.
Discipline is an archaic word. It doesn’t seem to flow naturally into a discussion by an artist. Mystery, intuition, unconscious, dream, serendipity, I usually hear those words. These qualities or notions are fully present, but they need to be coupled with discipline—the simple and difficult (sometimes painful) task of sitting down and writing.
Causes Nina Schuyler Supports
National Resources Defense Council