My husband and I have been rebuilding our front porch stairs this week – all week literally pouring concrete, measuring and cutting wood, drilling, screwing and nailing. For any of you who’ve seen my house, you’ll know that this was a very necessary improvement to replace the rickety, sagging, tippy, paint-peeling hazardous ascent that’s been there for God-only-knows how long.
I’ve neglected my writing almost entirely. In fact, the only time I’ve been able to steal has been before bed when I sit with a few printed pages, carefully editing by hand. More often than not, I’ve dozed off still holding my pen. I’m feeling monumentally guilty about my neglect, but I also know that this time away will help me see my work more clearly.
Life is full of distractions, some more necessary than others. For most writers the hardest thing is simply to find the time. But even when we find it, we’re as likely as not to squander it at least a little, often doing almost anything to avoid facing the blank page.
I see this “wasted time” as a sort of preparation. Most writers need to “rev up” in some way – by reading, jotting down notes, picking off dead plant leaves, making a third or fourth cup of coffee…. There are also times mid-work when we pause to stare out the window, check our email, search the Web. These are definitely distractions, but sometimes they can be productive.
Years ago, when I used to sneak my writing in between slow moments at office temp jobs, I learned to appreciate the frequent interruptions when I had to answer a telephone or type someone’s memo. They required little mental effort on my part, allowing my semi-conscious mind to muse and sift through the thoughts I was forming. More often than not, when I returned to my own work, I’d found the proper path through my scene.
Life gets in the way, but sometimes it’s refreshing. I’m doing my best to embrace this week-long distraction when physical work and the intricacies of carpentry are opening new pathways and experiences in my body and brain. I can feel the rising hunger to return to my desk, my characters and my creative world. But I’m not starving this week. In fact, I’m quite satisfied. Besides having nice, safe new porch steps, who knows? I might write about a character who’s a carpenter one day!
Meanwhile, for a little inspiration, check out this interview with Junot Diaz, author of “The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao”. His literary journey certainly took him along the long path of struggle and dedication. Take heart that even the best writers rarely find it easy.