Áine Greaney

Irish Author

Leading Creative Writing Workshops and Writing Stuff for 20+ years.

North Shore of Boston via Ireland

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Your First Writing Draft: Typed or Handwritten?

I’m working on my first book-length memoir. It’s terrifying. The general theme or topic: My immigration, at age 24, to America. Rather than just a ME-moir, I blend the personal narrative with national and family history, economics and psychology to examine the socio-economic, feminist and spiritual factors that made me (and 200,000 other young 1980s Irish) leave my own country.  

Depending on what gets to stay in there, I’ve written about 75 pages.

Fifty of those pages are well-polished keepers, though a literary agent or editor might have other ideas.  Mostly, I wrote and re-wrote those first 50 pages early in the morning, before leaving for work, on a laptop.  I just sat there, half asleep and clacked away.  These first 50 pages have taken me to that plot point where I’ve gotten my U.S. visa, I’ve filled in some back story (the why I left), I've said my goodbyes and I’ve hoisted my backpack on my back to leave for the airport and my transatlantic flight.

Then (cue the creepy music), it was time to generate new stuff, as in, a lot of new stuff, as in, the first few chapters of the American part of the story.

Oh hell.  I tell you, nothing, not even shopping for last year's bathing suit, was as scary.

So I did the adult thing: I found a nice big pile of sand and stuck my head as far into it as I could without actually ingesting sand or suffocating myself to death.  Oh, I didn't quit writing. Nope. I just found other oh-so urgent, must-do projects, so I could procrastinate on what I really needed to do: those first American chapters.

I don't know why I was so frightened. Mostly, when I drafted them in my head, I felt a terrible sorrow, a mother-lion protectiveness in which I wanted to take that young emigre (me!) and lead her by the hand and protect her from all the things she didn't, couldn't possibly know. More, I wanted to give her a sense of and pride in herself and, most important, the chutzpaha to assert that self.

Ah, middle-aged revisionism.

Then, one morning last week, I got myself up out of bed with, “Just get to it, and stop these damn excuses."

So I switched on my laptop. I must say, it's a very nice laptop.  And it has this super, beautiful Facebook app and Twitter and email and ... (more procrastination).

IMG_20131111_093639_755
IMG_20131111_093639_755

Then, thoroughly fed up with myself, I shut off the laptop and opened up my brand new journal, a well-chosen birthday gift from a great writer friend.

My hand stopped shaking.

America, at least via pen and paper, lost its scare factor. In fact, I am amazed by what this handwritten draft is unearthing, what I am managing to remember from 27 years ago. I am equally shocked to discover what the older, middle-aged me thinks about those early American years and my own immigration. Would all this memory and wisdom have come as easily in a typed first-draft?

Memory and wisdom.

I'm glad to say that there's a good chunk of both there now, in black (pen) and white (paper).

Do you type or hand-write your first drafts?  Does it depend on the topic, in that certain subjects lend themselves to keyboard, while others absolutely must be journaled or hand-written?  

For Labor Day: Seamus Heaney and Other Thoughts on Work and Writing

I wrote this exactly a year ago, never thinking that it would become one of many international elegies  for a great poet and wit and humanitarian.

Séamus Heaney's poem, "Digging" has always been my favorite piece of literature about work.

Have a listen to Heaney reading from his poem, "Digging."

Or read the printed version (below).

Random Thoughts on Poetry, Writing and Labor

As an undergraduate in Dublin, I was lucky enough to have Seamus Heaney as my professor and the chair of our English Department. As I sit here now, today, in America, I can shut my eyes and hear him reading to us in that second-floor classroom, to a rag-tag group of 18-year-old undergrads who were too young and too immature to appreciate what we were really hearing.

Years later, just before he became a Nobel laureate, I read an interview with Heaney in some Irish magazine in which he spoke briefly about his then-dual life as a working professor and as one of the world's most esteemed poets. In the interview, I loved the part where he stated that he always considered it his first duty to earn a living and provide for his family.

My father also dug his share of potatoes and turf and God knows what else. Above all else, my father believed in paying his way, in working hard.

In 2011, a year before Dad died, he told me that he was most proud of having produced an equally hard-working family.

Today, on Labor Day, I am proud to be the kind of hard worker who could make my father proud.

+++++++++

Séamus Heaney  (1939-)

Digging

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:

My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds

Bends low, comes up twenty years away

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills

Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,

Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner's bog.

Once I carried him milk in a bottle

Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods

Over his shoulder, digging down and down

For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I'll dig with it.

- from Death of a Naturalist (1966)

Writers! Write to your own body rhythm

When my late mother met my then-boyfriend, she shared some maternal advice. "She's a pure devil in the mornings," she said, nodding toward me (I thought all devils were impure, but ... anyway).  Then, my mother proceeded to describe those childhood breakfasts when I sat at the table, bleary-eyed and speechless. Sometimes, I nodded back to sleep over my bowl of porridge.

I've never been a morning person.  I doubt I ever will. But that boyfriend married me anyway (we celebrate 25 years of mornings next week).

Over the years, I've gotten better at obeying that damn alarm clock, but it still takes my brain an hour or more to fully wake up. For those morning meetings at work, I have to stoke myself with extra, extra-strength coffee (there's a *strict* no-porridge policy in the boardroom) just to be marginally coherent.

And those vacation bed and breakfasts places? Yuck. Chattery, all-guest breakfasts around the frilly dining-room table are my idea of hell.

This past spring, I really needed to increase my weekly writing output. So I began setting my morning alarm clock for an hour earlier. Also, determined to bypass the downstairs kitchen distractions (cat, husband, newspaper, brown-bag lunch prep), I bought myself a small red Thermos.

At night, I fill my Thermos with coffee, then set it next to my laptop on a small desk in an attic room in our house. As well as providing that instant morning eye opener, this nightly Thermos ritual creates the anticipation of morning writing.  

Once that alarm goes off, I roll out of bed, climb the attic stairs, turn on the laptop and unscrew my Thermos cap--all while still half asleep. 

Four or six-hundred words later, I'm still not really awake. But I'm done with that day's writing. I'm ready to get ready for my day job.

I adore this morning solitude.  It makes my whole day go better. And, even more than extending my daily writing quota, this sleep-writing shtick has had an unexpected payout:  With my left-brain still on dimmer switch,  I have neither the urge nor the acuity to read back through what I've written to nitpick and change things.

Now, it's late summer and I have an entire 70-plus pages of my book. Oh, yes, on weekend afternoons and on my days off, I've read through and nitpicked--and nitpicked.  But there would be little or nothing to edit if it weren't for those early-morning, unfettered drafts. When it's a challenge just to keep your eyes open, you just keep writing.

This article in The Wall Street Journal, "The Peak Time for Everything," cites a growing body of research that suggests that, according to our individual body clocks, we have our own optimal times for certain tasks. And that these rhythms, not our actual schedules, should dictate when we do them.

My only question: I knew this before. Didn't I? So why, oh why didn't I capitalize on it? 

Have you found an unprecedented but perfect match between your daily schedule and your writing needs? Share in the comments below. 

Writing About Traumatic Events: How Soon Is Too Soon?

Last week, my audio essay,  "Sanctuary" was published at "The Drum: A Literary Magazine for Your Ears."  As fond and proud as I am of this particular essay and this online literary magazine, having this piece of writing go public gave me the jitters.

"Sanctuary" is about the 2005 death of my mother. In eight years, this is my first time publishing anything about that event.

Note I said "publishing."

Not writing.

Oh, believe you me, her death made me write. And write. Confession:  I have a 3 a.m. notebook entry from one of those eerie nights when my siblings and I alternated shifts in our mother's hospital room. That night, I tiptoed down a florescent corridor and went to my sister's house to grab some sleep. But first, before collapsing into an exhausted and dreamless slumber, I wrote in my notebook.

After the funeral, when I returned from Ireland to the U.S. and my "normal" life--though there was nothing normal about it--I continued to write pages and pages about her and me, our lives together and the life that had just ended.

Once, I booked myself into my usual writers retreat ostensibly to work on a new novel. There, as if my fingers and the keyboard had a will of their own, I ended up writing a 60-page chronology of her cancer and death.  In fact, my just-published essay "Sanctuary" is as much about writing (and how it saves us) as it is about grief and healing.

Long before the medical and psychological research supported it, ever  since childhood, I have long believed in the value of writing about trauma and painful events.

And yet ....

With all those pages of writing already completed, why did it take me almost eight years to craft something eligible for publication?

In her essay, "Writing Through Grief: a Lifelong Writing Assignment" (on writing and re-writing her memoir about the death of her 19-year-old daughter), Eleanor Vincent writes:

First, there are my journals where raw writing is produced. But I would no more think of publishing my journals than of building the frame for a house and calling it a home. The journals are only the boards and nails, the raw materials. Then a process of refining begins with a first draft on the computer, followed by feedback from my writing group, and then many rounds of revision."

I didn't send drafts of my essay out for review or input. And I don't belong to a writing group. In fact, that short little essay kind of wrote itself. But this final, publishable version  wrote itself only because I had spent the last eight years creating what Vincent calls "the boards and nails, the raw materials" of my story.

In her essay, "The Incident of the Dog in the Early Evening - Is it Journaling or the First Draft of a New Masterpiece?" Christiane Alsop also addresses this issue of discerning between "literary catharsis" and well-honed work:

Such is journaling. Good old-fashioned journaling that helps healing. I have copious amounts of it generated around the turning points in my life. Good material to revisit in ten years when a dramatic event might become an incident in a future novel. Might. But only if, in ten years, the emotional heat has cooled to just the right temperature."

Ten years. It took me eight. So maybe I'm ahead of the game. Or pain.

How do you cope with writing about painful events? Do you have a technique or approach for letting the "emotional heat" cool?  Or do we really need to?

New Year's Resolutions for Writers: Ernest Hemingway's "Truest Sentence"

Should some writing come with a "made-in-China" label? In our digitized 21st century, how much of our writing is too cheap, too quick and too disposable? Has the sheer volume of digitized, podcast, broadcast and hard-copy content spawned a  24/7 static, a persistent distraction?

I have been a lifelong lover of the jigsaw process of writing, of yoking apparently disparate ideas together for a cohesive whole.  As a teacher and a writer, I have told my students and myself to "let yourself play in the word box to find that first, unfettered draft."

But lately, I have been questioning my own advice. In the time that it takes us to pen that first draft of a 3,000-word essay or story,  have the writing and publishing rules already changed? Has everyone already gone onto the next and louder message?

December has not been a good writing month because the first week was spent in my native Ireland, where I flew across the Atlantic to visit my family and to close out the mourning year for my late father's death.

It has not been a good writing month because my day job was really busy.

It has not been a good writing month because I was jet lagged and tired, addled, anxious and often awake at 3 a.m.

In fact, though I've managed to complete some essays and start a new book project, it hasn't been a very good writing year. For most of 2012, I have been plagued by this sense that some of us are destined to be the gauche maiden aunt at this hyper hip, hyper loud and hyper mercenary party called modern writing.

Or let's put it this way: This December, we tele-witnessed a young man gunning down 20 school children, another man pushing a stranger in front of a speeding train, and another man shooting up firefighters on Christmas.

So what the hell good are we?

And, worse than being ineffectual, aren't we writers--aka "content providers"-- part of the problem?  Our words are part of that blathery static that postures and obscures and, by extension, belittles the gut-crushing realities of life, death and loss?

Two nights ago, on the evening of December 30th, I was thinking about all of this when I suddenly remembered that line from Hemingway:  "Write the truest sentence that you know."

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

But after the madness that has been December 2012,  I could find or write no fixed, existential truth.

At least, not about anything out there outside my office window.

But a quick Google search threw up this wonderful writing exercise from a Canadian writer who encourages us to adapt Hemingway's advice to write some truths about ourselves.

To atone for our year of spin and cruelty and sycophancy, I tried to call up that one true thing about me.

I wrote down 20.

Some are those bare-knuckled truths that set us on the offensive or make us brace or duck for the next upper cut.  Some of my self-truths made me hold my breath. A few made me tremble. One made me cry.

The fact that I wrote 20 truths on 16 single-spaced, handwritten pages doesn't make me super prolific or super honest.  It simply and sadly means that,  in the busy-ness and babble of life, in the gussied-up version of me that I present to the world, I had abandoned what was true.

Now, all 20 of my truths are written down. They are an excellent blueprint for 2013.

Thank you, Ernest Hemingway. I don't like your writing. Given your macho, hard-living shtick, I probably wouldn't have liked you.

But in a world turned mad and bad, I love your saving advice.

For Labor Day: Seamus Heaney and Other Thoughts on Work and Writing

I wrote this exactly a year ago, never thinking that it would become one of many international elegies  for a great poet and wit and humanitarian.Séamus Heaney's poem, "Digging" has always been my favorite piece of literature about work.

Have a listen to Heaney reading from his poem, "Digging."

Or read the printed version (below).

Random Thoughts on Poetry, Writing and Labor

As an undergraduate in Dublin, I was lucky enough to have Seamus Heaney as my professor and the chair of our English Department. As I sit here now, today, in America, I can shut my eyes and hear him reading to us in that second-floor classroom, to a rag-tag group of 18-year-old undergrads who were too young and too immature to appreciate what we were really hearing.

Years later, just before he became a Nobel laureate, I read an interview with Heaney in some Irish magazine in which he spoke briefly about his then-dual life as a working professor and as one of the world's most esteemed poets. In the interview, I loved the part where he stated that he always considered it his first duty to earn a living and provide for his family.

My father also dug his share of potatoes and turf and God knows what else. Above all else, my father believed in paying his way, in working hard.

In 2011, a year before Dad died, he told me that he was most proud of having produced an equally hard-working family.

Today, on Labor Day, I am proud to be the kind of hard worker who could make my father proud.

+++++++++

Séamus Heaney  (1939-)

Digging

Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds Bends low, comes up twenty years away Stooping in rhythm through potato drills Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft Against the inside knee was levered firmly. He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep To scatter new potatoes that we picked Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade, Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day Than any other man on Toner's bog. Once I carried him milk in a bottle Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up To drink it, then fell to right away Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods Over his shoulder, digging down and down For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge Through living roots awaken in my head. But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. I'll dig with it.

- from Death of a Naturalist (1966)

The Next Big Thing: Blog Hop on Writers' Work in Progress

Week 8: The Next Big Thing: Work in Progress Thank you to Donna at Girl Who Reads who invited me to join this blog hop, in which writers dish a little on our current work in progress. Thanks, too, to the other scribes (see list at end of post) who have decided to post next week. Check out their works in progress  on August 22.

What is the working title of your book?

It's a novel set in greater Boston--with small parts of it in Ireland. I had called an earlier version, “Waverly Farms,” but the plot has changed considerably since then, so I don’t really have a working title yet. But I'm intrigued by my own unfolding story--and that's always a good sign.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The  creative itch  for this book can be traced back to my 10-year bug to write about wealth and its effects on people, and just how much will someone sacrifice or compromise themselves to hold onto wealth and what money can buy.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a YA crossover novel. This is my first time really dabbling in this genre. But in my 2nd novel, I enjoyed creating the teenage character very much, and found that I really got inside of her head. I've also completed a very layered, sassy short story with a 14-year-old character. So ... I'm building on these and trying a full-length novel with a 16-year-old character.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Gee, I’m not good with actors at all. But my teenage character, Drey, would have to be played by someone fairly complex, with the ability to master or balance a  cheeky worldliness with an inner sense of injury. For the male main character, Nathaniel, I think Jeremy Irons would be perfect.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A 16-year-old girl is forced to give up everything when her family declares bankruptcy, files for divorce and her mother emigrates to, and disappears in, America.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Either an agency or an independent literary press.   I don’t self-publish fiction.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I haven’t completed the first draft yet.  But between the day job and my other shorter projects, I’m working on it.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Not sure.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

As an expatriate who left Ireland 25 years ago, I have watched from afar as the country underwent a huge economic boom and crash.   Recent financial articles have highlighted the prodigal greed and unfettered borrowing and development that contributed to or fueled Ireland's current economic crisis.  So I imagined this spoiled teenage character whose family suddenly loses all of its wealth, and the mother and daughter are forced to emigrate.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Despite the context above, the novel is not a sociological study. Instead, it's part mystery, part psychological thriller and an unusual blend of two main characters: A teenage girl and a 60-something Brahmin New England man. The man is really quite crazy.

Next up: August 29: Check these 5 writers' blogs or websites to hear and see what they're working on:

Carolyn Roy Bornstein

Daniela Ginta

Lori Grace

Jennifer Karin

Ted Mitchell

Saturday snapshot - Don't You Love Free Speech?

I love this idea. Alyce at Home with Books hosts a Saturday Snapshot, in which you can post a beloved picture taken by yourself, a friend or family member (not randomly found on the Web). Then, simply visit Alyce at Home with Books and post a link there to your photo. Last week, I drove to one of our work sites (I work for a healthcare agency) and parked the car and ... there was this sign in the back garden of an apartment house.

Maeve Binchy: Lessons for All Writers

maveb
maveb

This week, the news spread via the international media and the Internet that popular writer Maeve Binchy has died after a short illness. Rest in peace, Maeve. And thank you for all those loveable and highly readable  stories and books.

I didn't know Maeve Binchy--at least not personally.

Once, she was the judge of a short-story contest in which my entry made second place. So I can guess she had good taste, yes? Also, I once flew back home from Ireland to Boston while sitting next to an off-duty airline stewardess. Needless to say, we got chatting. And needless to say, I got her to spill about who she's waited on and what they're like.

She said Maeve Binchy was a joy.

My first and best memory of this iconic Irish writer was an interview on a Saturday-night T.V. show in Ireland.  I couldn't have been more than 17 or 18 (was I 20?) at the time, and Maeve  Binchy was a comparitively neophyte published writer.

From that T.V appearance, I remember two things:

1. She assured the interviewer that writing was really like sitting in a pub and just telling someone a story. It was that exciting and that uncomplicated.

2. I remember her extraordinary warmth and grace--and for some reason, this came as a shock.

Can You Be Quotable, Famous and Nice?

Until Maeve, our iconic Irish writers--our Joyces, our Becketts our Kavanaghs et al--had been ... well ... mostly male. And, gender aside, our national writers had been quotable, talented and erudite--yes-but what had they taught us about being or playing nice? About combining  grace with literary fame?

So this is what I remember most about Maeve Binchy. Not her books, not her plots, not her characters, not her books-turned-feature films or astonishing literary output. But her grace.

Take a look at this week's  newspaper tributes to Maeve Biinchy's life and death, and it's clear that, beyond the works and awards, her grace and charm didn't go unnoticed.  The term "popular" described way more than her 40-million in worldwide book sales. These good manners, this altruistic consideration of others--her readers, the airline worker, the T.V. interviewer. These are the hallmarks, the legacy of a truly "good writer."

And of course, this leads us to ask: What if she'd been just as successful but also one of those ice-queen, prima donna writers?  This week, would we flood the Internet and media with our memories and our heartfelt tributes?

No. Or if we did, we would just write the usual "life and work" tributes. We would write and speak about her in that distanced, awe-struck way in which we pay tribute to other impressive but inanimate constructs like .. oh ... say ... the pyramids of Egypt or the Taj Mahal or Donald Trump.

To me, the way in which Maeve Binchy conducted herself on-screen, in life, on air or in the air is just as important--actually more so--than her status as a bestselling woman writer.

Saturday Snapshot - County Mayo, Ireland

I love this idea. Alyce at Home with Books hosts a Saturday Snapshot, in which you can post a beloved picture taken by yourself, a friend or family member (not randomly found on the Web). Then, simply visit Alyce at Home with Books and post a link there to your photo.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Winter on Mulranny Beach, County Mayo, Ireland.

I took this on the day after my brother's wedding there two years ago.  I'm from County Mayo, but when we were kids, the weather was rarely nice enough to go to the beach. But now I'm a grown up and a returning expat. So I go.  Just 'cos I can.

Working Time and Writing Time. What's In-Between?

"Tuesday is the day before hump day. Thursday is one day after hump day. Except Friday is WOOOH!!! FREEDOM!!! Day, Saturday is Mostly Hungover day, and Sunday is PreDoom day."

From: Urban Dictionary

I'm voting for a change in the calendar. If there can be "hump day" and TGI Friday and "doomday," and "pre-doomday," then why not a catchy name for that day or afternoon or morning that comes after work but before writing?

I don't know about you, but I never drive away from my office ready to dive into my current work in progress.  In fact, there are weeks when the hardest part of writing is the transition from worker-brain to writer-brain.

I love my job as a communications director for a busy non-profit. I feel fortunate to work 32 hours per week, usually Tuesday through Friday.  Oh yes, I hate when that dang alarm clock rings.   And I despise the pre-work choreography--you know, the cereal-coffee-shower-select-an-outfit routine. I'm never awake enough to get it right first time.

But once I get the matching socks on, once I actually get to work, the day flies by and I enjoy my colleagues and my daily tasks.   I enjoy it all the more because I know that, come Friday evening, I have three whole days of writing time.

Or do I?

The older I get, the more transition time I need.   I need a metaphorical green room in which I can rest up and make that switch from worker (public) me to writer (private) me.

Writer and worker. They are quite different people. At work, I think my colleagues would say that I'm chatty and upbeat (on good days), deliberate but efficient at getting things done. But holed up in my writer's den, I'm much, much more organic (scattered?).  I'm more given to self-flagellation and artistic despair. I'm quiet and solitary. And, even when I'm writing (or trying to write) witty, I'm often serious and dark.

So once the working week is done, how to do that old switcher-oo?  How to put all that efficiency and teamwork and left-brain-ness into cold storage until the alarm goes off and it's time for the matching socks again? How do we shush the workplace water-cooler chat to hear, instead, our own unique writing voices?

The switch isn't easy. Not for me. In fact, some weeks are so busy, so all-consuming that I need a down day.

Down day? Um ... No. Hate that name. Hate its connotations (down = feeling down = downward slide = getting down on yourself).

Listen, whatever we're going to name this writer-in-transition time, this set of hours and mental space betwen work and writing, we can start by making that time more productive, restorative, more writer-ready.

Here are 5 strategies that work for me: 

1. Exercise -  You've had enough desk surfing. After work, get out there and walk or run or go to the gym.

2. Small assignments - Before you set out on that walk or run, stuff a work in progress in your backpack. After your workout, grab a tea and spend an hour reading and editing. It's just an hour. You're just reading. But this gets you back into writer-you.

3. Do something just for you  -- A yoga class, a massage, a visit to you local art gallery, lunch with your kids or partner or a good friend. A deliberate spate of self-nurturing helps us to feel like our day jobs neither own nor define us.

4. Write in your journal. Writing about your work week gets it out of your system. Oh, and don't forget to list of all the wonderful things you accomplished this week.

5.  Read--A poem, a novel, an article on writing, a personal essay that inspires or informs.  Reading something we love is a great way to say, "Goodbye work. Hello me."

Whether it's an hour or a day or an afternoon, how do you transition from day-job you to writer you? And writers, what should we name this transition time?

Abraham Verghese: Well Said, Sir

First, let me apologize for my long absence and dearth of new posts. I have been in Ireland (twice) for a family emergency and bereavement (my Dad). As much as I love and feel comfortable in the blogosphere, I feel equally sure that this format would never do justice to my late father's industry, resilience, honesty and humor. So I will not write about his death or his legacy here. Speaking of resilience, I retuned to the U.S. to find this article by Abraham Verghese ("Cutting for Stone") in the Washington Post  My  fellow author, Carolyn Bornstein sent it to me. Thank you.

Abraham Verghese, author of ‘Cutting for Stone,’ describes his writing life

I write by stealing time. The hours in the day have never felt as if they belonged to me. The greatest number has belonged to my day job as a physician and professor of medicine — eight to 12 hours, and even more in the early days. Lest it sound as if I resent my day job, I have to say that my day job is the reason I write, and it has been the best thing for me as a writer. Read the complete article here. 

Jodi Picoult, Luanne Rice, Glen Cook: Your writing tips, please!

Are these facts or urban legend rumors?  Novelist Luanne Rice writes a book per year. Ditto for Jodi Picoult.  And here's a definite one: I read that SciFi and fantasy novelist, Glen Cook has already cranked out 40 books during his career--most of them while he worked full time at General Motors. Fact or fiction, if these book-per-year outputs are all true, then pass me the paper bag--to put over my shameful head.

Actually, I'm not so much in awe of these writers' productivity as their dexterity in being able to complete one project and get stuck into the next.  Or is it an overlapping, relay-race process? In other words, as one book awaits publication, the author is already drafting the next?

I don't know. I wish I knew.

dance-240
dance-240

My second novel, DANCE LESSONS was launched on April 1, 2011. That's four months ago. In Rice and Picoult years, that's a third of a new book. Have I written a third of my next project? Hah!

Last week, I wrote a guest post on this topic for the wonderful literary blog, Savvy Verse and Wit. Until I sat down to pen that piece about the après publication period, I didn't realize just how strange and direction-less this fallow time actually is.

So I'm having a strange old fallow time. And in some ways, it's kind of fun. But scattered.

How about you? Can you effortlessly switch projects? Write in more than one genre at a time? Or is there a regrouping phase in between?

Copyright 2011-2014 Aine Greaney
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