Sunday, November 29, 2009
Are you unbalanced?
All writers start off as readers, and most of the authors I know will admit that they were addicted to buying books long before they ever thought of writing one. As someone confessed to me recently, "I buy three books for every one I read...I can't help it." Clearly there are worse vices to have, but one of the great ironies of becoming a writer is that you have less time to devote to the reading, the very act that inspired you to write in the first place. And once you start meeting other authors, including those who inspired you to write in the first place, the size of your collection of books can rival the library at Alexandria.
Lately I've been living on airplanes, flying back and forth between San Francisco and New York on a weekly basis. And the dilemma I always face is the temptation to read the entire flight, when I know that time in the air (away from phones and kids) is prime writing time, if only I can resist the urge to grab one of the 3 paperbacks stashed in my carry-on bag. Sure, I still read whenever I can, and most of my writing time in the early days came from stealing hours away from other activities and hobbies. But as a writer your reading is more directed, often driven by your latest research, or just catching up with friends' books.
Unlike many of my fellow scribes I haven't found the discipline to achieve a consistent balance between what I want to do and what I should be doing, so I've become a binge writer. I'll get sucked into a book like Keith Raffel's latest breakneck thriller, Smasher, and not write consistently for days, then after I finish I'll clear the decks and write nonstop for a week, barely sleeping. (I can tell when self-editing which prose was written first thing in the morning and which came from some self-induced sleep derived psychosis.) Then I'll take a day off, and next thing you know, a book is in my hands and days vanish like smoke.
I admire and envy those writers who bang out a consistent word count each day, but I'm not one of them. I guess I'm just not balanced, but anyone who's read my books already knows that.
Posted by Tim Maleeny at 7:49 PM