Louise Nayer's latest book, Burned: A Memoir(2010) was listed as one of "Ten Upcoming Titles" in Oprah Magazine, was a finalist for the USA Book News Award and won the 2010 Wisconsin Library Association award. She has done numerous readings and talks across the country, including interviews on NPR.
Octavia Butler said, “Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable.”
Writing can be done anywhere and at any time. In my house in Buffalo during grad school I turned a tiny storage area into my writing room and wrote there for at least one hour every day. One long window faced a huge oak tree. Sometimes words came to me(then poems) in the middle of the night, and I always had a pen and paper by my bed and a tape recorder as well where I caught words in the middle of the night like catching lightning bugs in the Long Island summers of my childhood. Even when you have a full-time job, children and/ or an elderly parent to take care of or endless other commitments, time can be carved out.
When my daughter, Sarah, was born, my good friend, Frances, and I spelled each other a few hours a week in North Beach. It was precious, solitary time for both of us to put pen to paper. One of us went to a café while the other watched both babies. Later, when Laura was born, two years later, my husband always encouraged me to keep up the writing even with two small children and work. Monday nights were deemed my “writing night.” I didn’t take phone calls. “Mommy, Mommy” my daughters said at first but soon learned it was my sacred writing time. I often wrote until 10 p.m.
Pick one night, morning or afternoon a week and X that evening on your calendar. Let nothing get in the way(except a dire emergency) and tell all your friends and family about your “time.” Also, carve time at work. I would often steal moments while students were taking tests, or at a library presentation. I always carried a pen and pad—ready for the muse. Riding busses, the BART, or even driving with a tape recorder on—can be writing time. Just like a lot of things in life(sex and exercise for example) the more you do it, the more you’ll want to do it. Always have a pad and paper since computers don’t always behave.
When I was working on my memoir I would say, “1000 words today.” I forced myself to stay at a café or at the computer, sometimes two cups of coffee later, until those words were written. Make yourself a prisoner of your own creative expectations and hold yourself to it.
This May I stopped teaching full-time and now take the BART to the SF Grotto where I write at least two days a week. Some days I don’t want to go—my backpack is heavy—I haven’t prepared a good lunch—the house needs to be cleaned—I need to think of more ways to make money—but I go anyway. Then the words spill out.
NOTE: Louise will be teaching a one-day workshop on Oct. 22nd in San Francisco: Selling Your Writing - Persistence Pays Off.