Suspend Your Disbelief

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writing time


jrobertlennonJ. Robert Lennon, whose story collection Pieces for the Left Hand will be reviewed on FWR later this fall–and who was recommended highly to our readers by Lydia Davis–recently made this fantastic confession on behalf of all writers.

We don’t spend much time writing.

There. It’s out. Writers, by and large, do not do a great deal of writing. We may devote a large number of hours per day to writing, yes, but very little of that time is spent typing the words of a poem, essay or story into a computer or scribbling them onto a piece of paper.

And yet…

The truth, of course, is that writers are always working. When you ask a writer a direct question, and he smiles and nods and then says “Well!” and turns and walks away without saying goodbye, he is actually working.

And here’s where it gets really good and insightful and positively yes-yes-yes:

To allow our loved ones to know that we are working when we are supposed to be engaged in the responsibilities of ordinary life would mark us as the narcissists and social misfits we are. And so we have invented “writing time” as a normalizing concept, to shield ourselves from the critical scrutiny we deserve. Indeed, even writers who don’t write fiction are engaged in the larger fiction of imitating normal humans whose professional activities are organized into discrete blocks of time.

(Now read the whole thing in the L.A. Times.)

Me, I’m awful about putting aside time to write, and schedules make me itchy…but on September 15, I’m about to embark on a 3-hours-every-day writing experiment. So, readers who write: How much time do you devote to the act itself? Do you have “writing time,” and how carefully do you guard it? Would you say you’re secretly working (writer-style) all the time, too? And no, I don’t mean like this.


Join the Discussion

  • Celeste

    This reminds me of something Nancy Reisman told me a long time ago: that writers have to give themselves space to daydream. I understood that to mean writers need spend a lot of time doing things that do not look like writing, and that a lot of the “writing” happens when we’re not even sitting at the computer (or the typewriter, or the blank notebook page).

    Because a lot of writing is actually *thinking*, pulling ideas together, turning them over and over in our minds, letting them collide and seeing what happens. And it would be weird if we ONLY thought about our work when we were at the keyboard, wouldn’t it?

    Now I’m off to make some toast.

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