Saturday, August 22, 2009

Keep Flexible

For my whole life, I’ve written early in the morning. I loved to get up while the rest of the world was sleeping (such a virtuous feeling) and write in my bed, my mug of hot chocolate beside me. But as I grow older, I have to admit that it’s getting harder. It’s so lovely to luxuriate in the bed, snuggling under the covers as the room is finally cool enough for comfortable sleeping. So I’m exploring the possibility of – gasp! – writing at other times of day than dawn.

In her 1938 classic, If You Want to Write, the inimitable Brenda Ueland is scornful of writers who insist that they can only write at a certain appointed hour. Confessing that she used to be someone who thought she could not “work in the afternoon or evening at all, because I was absolutely certain I would not be bright then,” she dismisses such thoughts briskly: “All fear and conceit.”

As I child I read dozens of times Elizabeth Yates’s beautiful book, Someday You’ll Write, in which she also recommends that writers develop flexibility: “Keep flexible. Use a pencil when you write, and sometimes use a pen. Learn how to use a typewriter; then try composing on it to see if you catch your thoughts more quickly. . . Be able to write anywhere with any kind of equipment. The more you do it, the more adept you will become in creating around you your own area of quiet, and this is all you really need.”

While I’m not yet ready to try writing with a pencil (can it even be done?), and I insist on still writing all my children’s book manuscripts by hand, with my favorite Pilot Razor Point fine-tipped black marker pens, on my favorite white, narrow-ruled pads, I did astonish myself the day before yesterday by writing my daily page AFTER LUNCH. And then yesterday I astonished myself even more by writing my daily page in a busy lounge at a local college while my son Christopher was taking care of some administrative tasks for his fall semester. It was a good page, too.

No more fear and conceit for me!

1 comment:

  1. Yay for Elizabeth Yates! Thank you for sharing the blessings of flexibility. My head is often too busy in the morning to write, and I often feel that I am the ONLY person writing in the afternoon, until I remember Time Zones!