This article on Literary Hub is from last December, but PEN America just linked to it on Facebook earlier today, so it’s new to me; “What a Novel Looks Like Before It’s a Novel: Six Novelists on Their Writing Rituals and Early Drafts” by Claire Luchette was of special interest because I’m in the process of typing a forty-year-old manuscript onto a computer for the first time and serializing it on this blog. The technique of writing when handwritten and typed manuscripts were not easily rearranged and cut-and-pasted and easily massaged and otherwise ‘word processed’ (a formulation that still grates on the ears of those of a certain age) was a much different task than writing on digital devices. I’ve written long manuscripts both ways and I know that the tasks feel completely different. The LitHub article is interesting because many of the authors still see the importance of writing early drafts by hand even though they end up with their words on a screen. I sometimes see the difference in musical terms — the pre-computer novels were written on slightly out-of-tune guitars and pianos and some of the newly-processed novels stink of Auto-Tune and drum machines — but I’m not going back to a typewriter and carbon paper.
But the major question about writing (at least for me, having a full-time job) is finding or making the time to do it. The other article I read today spoke to me more directly. “How to Become a Writer? Start Writing” on The New York Times website was excerpted from the longer “Dear Sugars” podcast in which Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond give advice to a young CPA who feels that she should be processing words (sorry, writing books) rather than counting beans. I’m retyping one paragraph from Cheryl Strayed here to use it as inspiration for myself.
So what you’re hearing from us is go. But know that going in the direction of becoming a writer may look different than you imagine it will. Maybe you need to quit your job as an accountant to pursue your writing. Maybe you don’t. It isn’t all or nothing. You haven’t wasted a minute. You don’t have to feel hopeless about what’s next. You get to decide what it is by doing the work you feel called to do. Now is a great time to begin.