Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for August 1st, 2013

The new normal

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The author's daughter

I’m a fast writer. These days, my routine involves getting up around six, taking care of the baby, having breakfast with my wife, and finally settling down to write the morning’s blog post. This usually takes about an hour or so, allowing for another twenty minutes of fiddling and formatting, although I’ve generally been thinking about the topic of the day for much longer than that. Multiply this by three years—which is about as long as this blog has been up and running—and you come up with a volume of work that amounts to three or four novels. For an hour’s work each day, that’s not bad. And this doesn’t account for all the time I spent on the projects that actually pay the bills. (As satisfying as maintaining this blog has been, it isn’t exactly remunerative, although I do hope to repackage some of this material one day in a form that people might conceivably pay to read.)

Yet I’m uncomfortably aware that this pace can’t last forever. I’m still trying to match the rate of production that I established in my twenties, when I was single, living alone, and capable of working past midnight. Once you get used to a certain writing regimen, you want to stick with it—anything else feels like slacking off. But there’s no denying that it’s getting harder for me to write as much as I once did. The effects haven’t been all that visible this year, since I spent most of the last six months revising a manuscript that I’d already written, but the signs are there. Previously, I’ve tried to submit a couple of stories to Analog a year, but now I count myself lucky if I have time for one. Last year I wrote a bunch of freelance pieces; this year, I’ve pitched none at all, and that isn’t because I’ve run out of ideas. A human being has only a finite amount of energy, and as more of it gets channeled to my family life, there’s less of it available for writing.

The author's daughter and friend

And I’m not sure what the solution is. One possible answer, which I’ve weighed more than once, is to pare down the amount of time I spend on this site, and it’s likely that at some point I’ll cut back from my daily post to blogging two or three times a week. (Writing a post a day, in addition to a daily quote, was never something I intended to do forever—but, again, once you’ve established a baseline for yourself, it feels weird not to hit that mark.) The other is to rearrange my personal life to create more time for work. At the moment, I’m watching my daughter three full days a week, with help from my in-laws on Thursdays and Fridays, and my wife and I pass the baby back and forth on weekends. Until now, weekends and nights have been sacrosanct personal time, but when the moment comes for me to start writing a new novel from scratch, I may need to push my workday well into the evening hours.

More than anything else, though, I need to come to terms with the fact that this may be the new normal. Even if my schedule were magically restored to what it was before Beatrix was born, it may not be realistic for me to meet the same targets that I did when I was five years younger. And there’s a certain pleasure to be had in taking things more slowly. Word count, after all, is only the visible part of the writing life: the rest is found in the habits of mind it encourages and the range of subjects it allows a writer to think about, even when he’s changing a diaper or doing the dishes. That inner state is something that only comes into being after you’ve invested the necessary time and energy over many years, and even if the externals change, it doesn’t go away. I may not produce the maximum number of pages possible each day, but I still spend the same number of hours in my own head, and I like what I see there.

Written by nevalalee

August 1, 2013 at 9:09 am

Quote of the Day

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Written by nevalalee

August 1, 2013 at 7:30 am

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