A popular writer, Philip Yancey, told me he rarely works on his books while at his home in a city. Instead, he goes alone to a cabin in the mountains and while there does little but write.
That’s how I work too. Well, in my dreams.
In reality, I have occasionally tried to escape to a writing sanctuary. Not only have I hoped to find deeper concentration, I’ve thought it best to spare my family and friends the blows to their esteem that result when they ask me a question and I either fail to hear or cringe in annoyance of being disturbed. When they suggest we go together and do something that ought to be fun, I try to conceal my abject disinterest in any activity that won’t allow me to run to the computer or at least to dream in peace about the people and events of my current story.
Long ago, Darcy, my first daughter, age four at the time, came into a room where I stood considering how to get a character in a novel called The Gas Crisis out of a jam. I had worked on this story then put it aside and only that day come back to it again. Darcy observed me for about a second. Then she said, “Oh no. Crazy ol’ Daddy’s working on The Grass Crisis again.”
A common prescription for writing success holds that we should write every day. This may be a key to learning the craft but it might not be a healthy way to live, at least for the dreamers among us.
Aldous Huxley disagreed with that prescription. He suggested that writers should postpone writing as long as they could stand to. When I first read that comment, I wondered if he was joking or attempting to keep the less-than-dedicated out of the game, or what. But now that I have gained more experience with life, I suspect he was advocating a writing process like I imagine Philip Yancey’s: at home, live in a balanced manner, attending to correspondence, exercise, nutrition, congeniality with family and friends. Only when the tedium of all that, in cahoots with the story fermenting inside you, threatens mayhem if you don’t let it out, then run to a sanctuary and stay until the completed project, or at least a good draft, releases you to go home.
Sure, here I sit at home writing. But a guy can dream.