Thursday, March 22, 2012

the reality of being a writer (or why I need to find a coffee shop without free wi fi)

There's this stereotype of a writer, sitting alone in his (or, occasionally, her) tiny apartment, staring at a computer screen. The screen is open to a blank word document and said author stares at the blinking cursor until he (or, occasionally, she) is driven insane.
Then there's the reverse stereotype of a writer sitting down to an empty word document and cranking out 120,000 words in just a few weeks or months. Said author becomes a bestseller with seemingly little or no effort.
Most stereotypes are far from true, but they usually have a grain of truth to them. The reality of writing day in and day out in the hopes of getting published centers not on churning out words or staring at a blank screen. No, it centers on distractions. I can't speak for authors who worked before the internet became popular, but that is the # 1 distraction for writers. There are two aspects of writing: The creative aspect (writing the story and making sure it sounds good) and the business aspect (finding an agent and, later, a publisher, and marketing the book). The creative aspect is generally a solitary one, and when a writer is left alone with his (or her) thoughts, the inner monologue can get pretty interesting.

As I sat in Starbucks this afternoon, trying to work on yet another manuscript I hope to get published someday in the distant future, my train of thought took some pretty interesting and possibly dangerous turns before finally (and inevitably) getting derailed.

I posted a brief version on facebook earlier, but it goes a little something like this:

-- *writes for 5 minutes*
-- "Say, I wonder what's going on on facebook right now..."
-- *writes for 5 more minutes*
-- *goes back to facebook* "Ooh, someone liked my status."
-- *writes for 2 minutes*
-- "Say, I wonder if anything new has happened on facebook in the last 2 minutes...ooh, someone commented on my status! I'd better comment back."
-- *writes for 30 seconds*
-- "I wonder if anyone has posted anything interesting on The Hunger Games board on IMDb lately. *checks imdb* "Ooh, here's a post I should comment on."
-- *writes for 2 more minutes*
-- "Oh that reminds me, I have a book to pick up at the library on my way home. But I'm already reading two other books...should I really start another one?"
-- *writes for 3 more minutes*
-- "Hmmm, I should really check my text messages. Oh hey, I have one! It's from my friend who I invited to see The Hunger Games with me tomorrow. I should tell her I'm buying the tickets online."
-- *writes for 5 more minutes*
-- "Say, my white chocolate mocha is getting cold. It also tastes kind of funny, but I'm almost finished with it anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter."
-- *writes for 30 more seconds*
-- "I'm really excited for The Hunger Games. I wonder if Suzanne Collins got distracted this much when she was writing it."
-- *writes for 30 more seconds*
-- THE HUNGER GAMES. *derails and leaves coffee shop with one fully consumed white chocolate mocha and several pages worth of possibly sucky rewrites*

In short, damn you Starbucks for having free wi fi and cell phone service, and damn you Suzanne Collins for writing such an amazing and popular book.

Next week I'm going to a local shop across from the USM campus. At least you have to pay for wi fi there.

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