Tag Archives: editorial

time to write

Working on Leverage inspired and stirred up all those weird things in my brain that make me an artist. In an effort to maintain the creative momentum I experienced while working on the show, I went directly from wrapping my episode to working on this series of short stories I’ve wanted to write for a long time, but for one reason or another never developed past the beat sheet.

I have a routine that goes something like this: I get up between 8 and 9, grab some coffee, and read some news. About 40 minutes later, I eat breakfast, and then I start writing for anywhere between 4 and 5 hours, usually until hunger drives me away from my desk.

The thing is, it’s not non-stop writing for all that time. There’s a lot of thinking, a lot of wandering around (mentally and physically) and more than a little bit of goofing off online while I try to stay out of my brain’s way long enough for it to cough up the ideas. It’s easy to feel like I’m not really working, and I’m sure it would appear that way to the average observer.

In today’s Los Angeles Times, writer J. Robert Lennon wrote an amusing and very truthful column about exactly what it is we do when we’re writing.

Ask a writer what she values most in her creative life, and she is likely to respond, “Time to write.” Not many of us have the luxury of writing full- time; we have spouses, families, day jobs. To the people closest to the writer, “writing time” may seem like so much self-indulgence: Why should we get to sit around thinking all day? Normal people don’t require hour after continuous hour of solitude and silence. Normal people can be flexible.

And yet, we writers tell our friends and children, there is nothing more sacrosanct, more vital to our intellectual and emotional well-being, than writing time. But we writers have a secret.

We don’t spend much time writing.

There. It’s out. Writers, by and large, do not do a great deal of writing. We may devote a large number of hours per day to writing, yes, but very little of that time is spent typing the words of a poem, essay or story into a computer or scribbling them onto a piece of paper.

Maybe it’s a little too “inside baseball,” to be as funny to normal people as it is to me, but I totally relate to everything he says. In fact, I need extra time to write, so I’m taking June and July off from my columns to write fiction, and get Memories of the Future and the Subterranean Press edition of Happiest Days out the door (Happiest has been held up by me; I had a technology problem that seriously cockblocked me on my edit, and then I couldn’t find some important stuff to go in the book, but finally found it about two weeks ago. Those of you who pre-ordered and are tired of waiting shouldn’t direct your hate-lasers at Subterranean, and should instead focus them on me.)

Lennon eventually says:

The truth, of course, is that writers are always working. When you ask a writer a direct question, and he smiles and nods and then says “Well!” and turns and walks away without saying goodbye, he is actually working.

If a writer is giving you a ride to the bus station and pulls up in front of the supermarket and turns to you and says, “Enjoy your trip!,” she is actually working.

I have to apologize to Anne all the time, because while we may be in the same location, physically, my mind is frequently off in some other place, its hands filled with soft mental clay that it hopes to shape into something recognizable. There’s a line in Stand By Me where Gordie’s son tells his friend that his dad gets weird when he’s writing. I’ve heard my own kids say that, and if I can confess something real quick … it always makes me happy to hear that.

While I worked on Leverage, I had a beer with John Rogers almost every night after wrap. We talked about all kinds of stuff, from D&D to comics to our wives to working in the entertainment industry. At least once a night, John would point out how lucky we are to have jobs where we get paid to make stuff up and entertain people. I couldn’t agree with him more.