Friday, January 8, 2010

Every single year

I have raved about Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac here before, so it's no surprise he's the source on this too. If you're here after the 8th and you use the link above, you'll need to click "prev" until you find the one on Allende.

It's January 8, which means Isabel Allende is starting a new book. 29 years ago, she started The House of the Spirits (which is a wonderful book, and which a bunch of people are reading together in January over at Moonrat's if you're interested) (or, if you're lazy, you can see the movie, which is also beautiful and haunting). That turned out pretty well, so she decided to try it every year.

According to my research,* Allende goes down to her office in the morning, locks herself in, lights candles, meditates, and then writes for 10 straight hours. No outline. No ideas. No index cards. Then she writes 10 hours a day, six days a week until she finishes the book. Nobody reads it until it's done, not even her. When it's finished, she reads and then revises accordingly.

There's so much I want to say about this. Like "Oh, yeah, that's my daily schedule too." Like that I am amazed at her discipline. Like that when I'm older and nobody cares if I disappear for ten hours, I want to try it like that.

Mostly, it's a good reminder for the new year that in the end, it's the old butt in chair that does it: wanna write a book? Go write it. It won't be The House of Spirits, but writing is not like, say, running a four minute mile, which I could never do no matter how hard I trained. And even Isabel Allende has to go back and revise.

* Keillor's article, Google and Wikipedia


Lilfix said...

I wouldn't know what to do if I had 10 hours of uninterrupted time...I can barely get 10 minutes...grin...

C.R. Evers said...

~sigh~ I wish the "butt-in-the-chair" thing was a magical solution. I'm so discouraged after my NaNo experience last year. I did so well, I loved what I wrote, spent the entire year of 2009 revising . . . . sent my 1st 10 to a SCBWI Fall conference and had it critiqued by an agent that . . . . hated everything about it. The only good thing she said was that it had a "good voice" But she pretty much said that nothing else would really work. (paraphrased) ~sigh~ I've never had such a depressing critique before. I think that experience may be the cause of my current writing rut. All my confidence has been knocked out of me.

appaerntly, "butt-in-the-chair" only counts if you have talent too. Oh the fickle world of writing!

Jacqui said...

Lilfix, seriously. I'd probably go nuts.

Christy! I'm so sorry you had such a discouraging experience. Please don't let it sink you!

cath c said...

i love allende. have you read her memoir about her daughter's dying? would that i could write like that about something so close.

nano was tough for me. but i also just spent the last thurs-sun at a writers' retreat with 5 other women (all children's authors or working on a children's novel) and we did not say a word to each other for 9 hours a day. zero interruptions, except for my own fidgety wanderlust.

of course the bottles of wine and hottub every evening helped, when we bounced off of each other how each's day went and what we mangaged to accomplish or how our writing surprised us.

now if i could just apply that to my daily life in writing with kids and mil and pets and dh ....i may just finish.

but i don't have a hot tub full of authors to check in with and don't think the bottles of wine would be such a good idea on school nights.

Jacqui said...

cath, I have read Paula and it is marvelous and terrible and great.

And about the retreat, can you feel my green glow from here?!

J. Thorp said...

That felt a bit like a 2x4 between the eyes. In a good way. Thanks, coach.

cath c said...

well, that would be why i'm sharing it, right? ;)

i typed mangaged. hee-hee. no men in sight for retreat.

Jacqui said...

Thorp, always happy to hit you in the face. Er. You know what I mean.

Amber Lough said...

Wow, she has the same exact schedule as I do...except that I only write for nine hours a day. I didn't realize I was totally slacking off.

Ok and now for reals....seriously, will I ever get to have even, oh, FIVE hours to myself? Does that happen when the kids go to school full-time?? Like, when my son turns three and I make him go to full-time preschool b/c I am really really really not going to be a home-schooling mom?

And as for writer's retreats....I am still planning on having one in the Adirondacks this summer. Any and all are welcome.