Of late I’m finding it increasingly hard writing in a proper way.
By “proper” I mean seated at a desk with my laptop in front of me and banging away at the keyboard merrily. Or doodling endlessly on my notepad while sitting in a comfortable arm chair. All the while, undisturbed.
Well for one thing, I’ve bitten a bit more off than I can chew. You see, through a good friend’s connection, I took up an intense seven week teaching/assessment course that I have been running since the start of this week. It required me to teach online daily six days a week for five weeks, followed by assessments galore to grade!
At the same time, I’m also wrapping up two other teaching stints these couple of weeks.
So yes, I can definitely say what my countrymen daily say when asked how they are: “BUSY!”
And since it’s still largely WFH (work from home) for the time being, when a busy online teaching day is done, the last thing I wanna do is sit in front of a screen again (except maybe the living room telly). Or to even stay home. And don’t even get me started on how my aging mind’s taking longer these days to unwind; even hours after the sun has set!
Now where pray tell will that leave my writing?
Where did other writers do it?
Okay the good news is I’m actually in great company.
Jane Austen had to write amidst dealing with a busy family life (hey Ms Austen, high 5!). Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up most of the time apparently, while D H Lawrence preferred doing it while sitting under a tree (bet he didn’t have to contend with the ants found under every tree on my tropical, equatorial, humid, island of a garden city-state).
Both Agatha Christie and Ben Franklin created and wrote in bathtubs (though clearly never in the same one simultaneously!). Edith Wharton did it while staying in bed under her covers, with her trusted pet dog beside her. And Stephen King? Apparently at one point, the laundry room of all places!
The point is, there really isn’t any fixed rule anywhere that says I must write my magnum opus only when I’m nicely sequestered at my desk. Of course I did once mention in an old post on my writing heroes that the wife of Moby Dick author Herman Melville, had to tie him to his desk so he could complete his immortal classic!
Finding the space, time and mind to write
All these luminaries of the writing world and their writing lives and styles make one thing painfully clear.
No matter what happens or how ill-suited it may seem, writers can’t be choosers when it comes to picking a time or place to write. We just have to steal whatever time and space we can find, and just hunker down to get the job done!
Now I’m not saying it’s easy. I can tell you it’s not. And in this modern, distraction-at-every-corner-of-your-eye world we now live in, there are days it’s practically impossible.
Yet what choice do we have as writers? We have to take whatever we can get and press on.
So I must now muster whatever seconds I can steal between teaching and family; whatever nooks and crannies in my small cramped apartment I can find — at or (gasp), even under the dining table — with whatever method (like brain-dump-whatever comes to mind without censor) or instrument (phone, or scraps of loose paper within reach) I can find.
Persevere, for the writing will come
It’s not about speed, or even quality anymore. Not when you’re attacked on every side by dastardly deadlines coming at you like the runes-tattooed tentacles on that octopus monster in Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
No, I’m not saying that we dish out drivel. No self-respecting writer would dignify that, though we do dish out lots of vomit first drafts.
It’s about “”trusting the process”.
That as we have been doing since we became writers, we keep up the writing like any disciplined athlete would keep up their running.
So whether that means thumbing madly on our phone while waiting for the elevator to come or the pedestrian crossing light to favor us. Or dashing off a line or two on post-its in between lesson breaks. Or just lying down in bed with a notebook and pen on hand while recovering from Covid-19.
The point is to keep at it, snatching any moment, anywhere, and in any state of mind.
For that’s how over time and with perseverance, the writing will come.
Just like it has with this post!
[PS For the record I was at, not under, the dinner table when I completed it]