Most writing blogs focus on the far more headache-inducing, business side of writing– how to get an agent, how to get published, how to write a good query letter, how to self-publish, etc. I read these blogs so I can keep up with what’s happening in the industry. But they make me feel tense and inadequate, and after reading them, I find it difficult to focus on my work-in-progress.
But when I arrive at Patrick’s blog, I check my desperation at the door.
Patrick encourages writers to take a step back from the day-to-day grind of word counts and spell checks, and view writing as a journey– a life choice that one actively makes a priority. When I read his posts, I imagine the two of us sitting across from one another at a coffee shop, sipping tea, discussing how we connect with our inner muse. Patrick’s writing about writing is a comforting conversation about the source of our artistry, not the complications of a writing career. Through his choice to live an “art-committed life,” I have found a sort of writing guru in Patrick. Perhaps you will, too.
When Do You Write, Patrick?
I give my muse an hour each day before dawn for first-draft writing. I wake up, leave sleeping my wife and two children, head downstairs to the kitchen, pour a cup of coffee (the pot is already brewed thanks to Mr. Coffee’s programmable timer), descend another flight of stairs to my computer, and start typing.
The words come easily, even in my half-awake state. In part, this is due to the fact that as I’ve grown older, I find myself needing less sleep. But this is also because I often program my subconscious to start the writing process before I fall asleep. This little trick I’ve developed over the years means that when I sit down at that blank Microsoft Word screen at the start of my day, I do not feel I am generating from nothing; rather, it feels a bit like taking dictation. At some point I find my rhythm, and then my muse and I press on, truly generating original writing.
I recently started a full-time job that I love, but that requires long days with no window to actually work on any personal writing. As a freelancer, I would carve out small windows during the day to perform edits. That is no longer an option. But I cannot underestimate the importance of editing for me; my initial drafts are absurdly long and logically incongruous. Any creative writing project I undertake must undergo four or five or more rigorous edits, and I know the editing is complete when the work is half the length with twice the clarity.
I must generate new prose each morning; I cherish the silence, and know I must write a little each day to keep those muscles limber. So with not being able to edit during the day, and not being willing to surrender my pre-dawn hours to editing, I am finding that process is a late night activity. It’s a little surprising to me that I am able to do it. I have generally thought of myself as mentally and creatively spent after seven o’clock at night. But when you love what you do—and I love to produce finished creative writing, even if I don’t always love the writing process—I find the motivation to focus on the prose in front of me and slash those pages with my pen.
There are sacrifices, things that otherwise might be on the calendar that get pushed aside. I have yet to watch a 2012 NBA playoff game in its entirety, for example, but then again my Phoenix Suns didn’t make it this year, so that sacrifice is more easily made. But my choices in what I do and what I don’t are made voluntarily. Those are always the easiest choices to live with.
Bio: Patrick Ross is a professional storyteller. He works in Washington, D.C., as a communications official in the Obama Administration, and still finds time to pursue an MFA in Writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, write the award-winning Artist’s Road blog, and teach a course on creative blogging at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. His wife and teenage son and daughter are very patient with his various pursuits, and tolerant of his dorky sense of humor.
Patrick’s first paid writing was a contest-winning poem that earned him $25 when he was seventeen; other than some goofy haikus, he has not written another poem since. Most of his professional career has been as an award-winning journalist, but in the last year he has turned his attention to creative nonfiction. He has had several personal essays published, and is writing a travel memoir about his cross-country U.S. road trip in which he interviewed several dozen artists and produced short documentary films about them and their art.
He enjoys antique maps, fine cigars, and bacon.
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Want more WHEN DO YOU WRITE? Meet back here this Thursday! For past guest writers, check here.