I have an elderly neighbor I help out, and each day she asks me if I’ve finished writing my novel, and it’s hard to stay patient with her. There are some things you just don’t ask a writer, ever and that is one such question! In life there are times when you wait for the other person to mention something such as whether they are still in a relationship, or if their parents are still alive, but when it comes to writers, you need to be wary, very wary not to ask them how things are going, or if they have finished because it can create doubt in their minds, plus if they have been struggling it can set them back further.
I’ve tried to explain to people so many times in the politest way possible, that writing never ends, but somehow they just don’t get it. Even in the hands of the publishers, in the mind of a writer that character is still developing and you go over scenes wondering if you should have changed things. People don’t understand that writing a book isn’t like baking a cake when there is a set amount of time for it to be ready. There are days there is good progress, and other days when there is nothing. A creative burst can come at unsociable hours or at an inconvenient time, such as when you are about to get into the bath, or when the doorbell goes.
People ask if I had a nice weekend or holiday, but writers don’t have weekends or public holidays, they don’t switch off until a scene is completed, a chapter has reached its conclusion, or in other cases your pen runs out (this should never happen as spare ones should always be nearby), or your laptop runs out of battery, which in that case, save and switch to pen and paper if there is no charger handy. Alternatively, there is writer’s block, or inevitable distractions (unless you are fortunate to live alone in a quiet beach hut or log cabin). Even when I switch off the phone, the landline is on for emergencies and cold callers are the worst people ever because they dial any old number and don’t care if they disturb you. While I know they must make a living, the only people to buy anything from cold callers are the vulnerable elderly folk who are too trusting, or people who have little common sense. They’ve annoyed me numerous times and once you’ve been distracted it’s hard to get back into the right frame of mind. In case you’re wondering why do I have a landline and answer is because I have sick parents and a call maybe to do with them as they refuse to use cellphones.
Writers can be up at silly hours, nap in the afternoon, and that means they will eat and bathe at unusual times compared to normal people. The most favorable time is close to midnight when there are no calls (phone or doorbell), and no traffic outside, and when I won’t get a barrage of emails to sift through and answer (or feel as if I ought to). Although I do like to write during natural daylight, it’s not always practical, and even when it’s a nice day I feel I should be out making the most of the weather when really I just want to crack on with my writing. In fact I feel guilty if I am out because I feel as if I’m letting my character down!
By now most people are fairly obliging in my idiosyncrasies, which are of course justifiable because they don’t actually harm anyone. When you are creating a world, it’s not 9 to 5, but consumes every waking moment you have, whether you are conscious of it or not!