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As I’m nearing the end of the first full draft of my next book, I’ve been thinking a lot about work habits. Veteran novelists sometimes obsess over this as much as newbies, and while I’m not so interested in whether or not other novelists write longhand or with computer, I am curious about how other novelists find the time to write.
Now, time is always a challenge. Before I earned my living from this job, I learned how to focus and block out the world, so that you could find me writing (longhand) in restaurants (when I was a customer), in the smoking area beside the dumpsters (when I was an employee), and at my desk at 6 am when I worked in a skyscraper in Manhattan, writing The Bridge of Sighs.
I got an overwhelming thrill when I was awarded the Fulbright to do research for a year in Romania. More than the travel and the research, I was stunned by the prospect of an entire year devoted solely to writing. Then, later, when I quit my day job I realized that, for the rest of my life, I could spend as much time as I wanted just writing. I could sink into my natural impulse and not make excuses to anybody for it.
But it’s never that simple. Up through The Tourist I largely had control of my time, but with Margo’s birth I decided on a 3-month break. That would allow me to focus on those first crucial months of my daughter’s life, and Slavica and I could establish a schedule around which I could return to writing three or more hours a day. Little did I realize that with a baby—and without a nanny, or grandparents living in town—this prediction was entirely unrealistic.
Still, I tried. I caught an hour here and there, and now, a year later, I’m nearly done with the book. But it’s felt like a yearlong struggle with the outside world to get this thing written. And—more worrying—I fear that my fragmented work schedule might have adverse effects on the book. With long works of fiction, you need extended periods just to dwell on the text, so that the final story flows as a cohesive whole.
But these are things I’ll have to deal with in a few weeks, after I’ve let the book sit. But even then, I’m going to need 5-to-8-hour days to really make it work. The question is whether or not Margo will let me have those.
So I put it to the writers out there, particularly those with children or other live-in distractions: How do you find the end-on-end hours to write a book, when the rest of your life is crying for attention?
(Originally posted at the Contemporary Nomad)