Permission to Go Off the Grid, Sir!

Post Date: July 30th, 2012

 What I Did on My Summer Vacation:

Image found here

 What I Did Not Do on My Summer Vacation:

  • answer email
  • worry about writing goals 
  • worry about whether I will ever “make it” with my YA fiction (whatever that means)
  • worry about the CCSS or whether I am a decent educator or not
  • judge my worthiness by word count
  • care what others think

Note to fellow authors: I allowed myself 8 days of summer vacation. How about you?

Some wisdom to chew on from two authors, confirming thoughts in my own head lately:

I get asked this question a lot: What can I do to be a better writer?

I often answer:  Write more. Read more. 

If I have enough time, I add: And make sure you get out and do stuff. That’s how you’ll get new material, even if it’s riding a bus to your favorite bakery and eating too many eclairs. 

It’s true. You’ll hear people talking about things. You’ll see birds and trees and stuff. You might watch a garbage truck making its rounds, a businesswoman walking to lunch in a pair of sneakers, a man running his daily ten miles, a little kid flying a kite.

You will, I hope, gain respect for everyone you see because they’re out there doing what they do because that’s what they are doing. And if you’re holed up writing all the time, you will forget that there are people out there doing what they do. Living.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Drew wrote me a letter. He told me to have fun. He told me that I was allowed to go swimming and do back dives and shit. The minute I read the letter, I went to the pool and did back dives.

Sometimes we have to do back dives.

A.S. King, “Chop Wood, Carry Water”

I rarely hear anyone talk about mulling, thinking, musing, ideating. I remember reading how Tony Hillerman will often lay on his couch for hours with his eyes closed. That was the bulk of his work. I am much the same way, but instead of lying on the couch I take long walks, talk out my plots and ideas and characters, sometimes in prayer with God, other times just talking out loud to myself somewhere secluded where no one but my dog hears me (and he doesn’t mind). Toni Morrison has written about doing much the same, saying by the time she sits down to write, she’s done the hard work of writing in her head.  

C.S. Lakin, “Why Counting Words May Be Hazardous to Your Health”


    1. Bob Mustin says:

      I remember reading somewhere that Bob Dylan claimed to do 90% of his writing in his head, when driving, TVing, etc.
      I do a lot of that, but over months and months – working 2-3 projects ahead….no wonder I have sleep issues!

    2. Finding that balance between ideating and peace–hard. Art is a disruptive, troubling process. The daydreaming is all fun and games till it keeps you up at night, right? 🙂 Faulkner spoke of there being no peace, right, and how we need to kill for our art…so perhaps the sleepless state is the ultimate in artist behavior.