Can you write in a vacuum?

WinterGardenYellow copySometimes I think my life is too busy.

Like the last three months: I published my quarterly community newspaper, edited and designed a 8-page tabloid publication called Pet Talk, had three photos assignments,  facilitated six creative writing sessions.

Whew! Makes me tired just thinking about it.

I’m fortunate that I could cut back on some of these work responsibilities and not go hungry. If I did cutback, I would have more time to do what I love most. Write.

I heard an interview with John Irving in which he said he wrote every day for at least eight hours. Is that what it takes to be a successful writer?

During the last three months I haven’t had the opportunity to write as much as I would have liked – I think.

But for me it’s a conundrum. Can one write in a vacuum?

Sure, I’ve accumulated a wealth of life experiences to enrich my stories but it’s the present that stimulates me. The people I meet and the issues of the day are what inspire me to write. Once the story has been birthed, applying the layers from my cache of experiences is craft but not inspiration.

Every once in a while there’s a lull in my life, a hiatus from work deadlines and social events. I’m presented with a stretch of uninterrupted time free from major distractions. You’d think this would be my most productive time, but it’s not.

I can’t force my creativity. It comes forth on it’s own. I have no idea what might trigger it, but suddenly it erupts and for hours flows hot and uncontrolled.  At other times it quietly percolates just below my subconscious sending me hurrying to find paper and pencil only to discover the bubble has burst and with it the inspiration.

If I had more time could I train myself to be more productive, more creative? Should I attempt to arrange my life to make it so? Would extra time to write provide me with my breakthrough? Or would it tap me out, make me cynical and disillusioned surrounded by pages of dreck.

Do I want to do this?

The answer is no.

I’ve had an interesting career but as much as I enjoyed it, and to some extent continue to, it was still a job. Anything you must do, day in and day out, eventually loses its appeal.  I don’t want that to happen to my writing. I don’t want to wake up and think I have to sit at the computer for eight hours and grind out ten thousand words.

How likely is it I’d write well if I wasn’t enthusiastic about it?  Better to be anxious to get back to it, looking forward to the opportunity and when it presents itself be bursting with fervor.

Is this an excuse? Is risking everything the only way? Am I too chicken to try?

Yes to the last one.

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Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.

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