How You Can Tell I've Started Writing a New Book

Like I said, my garden's in great shape!

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I left the work-a-day world, forty hours a week's worth, five years ago to do what I'd always wanted to do: write.

After a career in newspapers and another one in marketing when I needed to make real money to pay for my three children's college educations, I was finally, finally, going to put pen to paper and see what happened.

Five years later I've written a novella, a novel, a memoir, and a mystery. (Not to mention more than a hundred hubs!) I'm starting my second novel. (It's actually my third, but the first one will never see the light of day!) I guess that's not bad for 260 weeks of work, but if you added in all the time devoted to procrastination, I'd would have had time to write "War and Peace" by now plus all the Nora Roberts novels.

You can always tell when I'm working on a book. My house is clean. I mean scrubbed, polished, rearranged and redecorated to the extent the budget will allow. But with extra money to spend or not, the hours spent shopping for nothing more than new shower curtains accomplishes one important purpose. It postpones writing.

Don't misunderstand. I love to write. I've been doing it in one form or another since I was in high school. And I think I'm not half bad at it, if I do say so myself. But I swear to all that is holy, nothing terrifies me more than a blank computer screen. You know, if I don't put anything on it, it can't suck.

And that damned blinking cursor. Is there anything on earth more irritating? It blinks. It never misses a beat. And with every blink, time goes by. Time I could spend writing, except I can hear it saying with the same persistence of its blink: "So you think you can write, huh? Well, we'll just see about that."

So I start to pound the keys - just to shut it up. I use the Stephen King method of writing. The first draft is unedited, stream of consciousness, just get it out, writing. If I think it, I type it, and I don't stop for at least two thousand words. Child's play. As a reporter for a weekly, small town newspaper, I used to knock out four or five stories a day at a minimum of five hundred words a pop. Two thousand words is a walk in the park. And I feel so good after I've churned out this drivel, I don't write another word for days or weeks.

I'm an avid reader. I go through three or four books a month, and that's not a bad track record for someone who only reads before going to sleep at night. It's self-discipline. If I let myself read during the day, I'd really never get any writing done, or anything else for that matter. I read books all the time that, in all humility, are not any better than books I've written. I tend to read the complete repetoire of an author primarily to see the writer's progression and development. Even the authors that I don't think are any better than me (not the many, many who are far superior to me) have written ten, twenty, thirty or more books. How do they accomplish that? Oh yeah. They write. I shop for shower curtains.

I'm more than sixty years old. In the past three years both my parents have passed away. I'm as aware as anybody that I don't have an infinite amount of time to accomplish what I'm going to accomplish in my lifetime. I said before that I use the Stephen King method of writing. What I should have said is that I use part of his method. Stephen King writes every day. Two thousand words every day. If he finishes a book after writing one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-eight words, he starts another. He says, "Why would anyone who likes to write, stop writing just because he's finished a book?"

Why indeed.

Don Dilillo said, "A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it."

William Gibson said, " I sit down and try to write. If absolutely nothing is happening, I’ll give myself permission to mow the lawn. But, generally, just sitting down and really trying is enough to get it started."

E.B. White said, "A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper."

Starting today I'm taking the wisdom of these famous authors to heart.

But I still hate that blinking cursor.




Creativity and Suffering

EBooks and paperbacks by Kathleen Cochran

When I Really Need Inspiration:

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Comments 21 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Well I wish you well in your quest my friend.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

Thanks for sharing this interesting write here of being a true writer and what that entails! Your garden is very lovely. It does take a lot of discipline no doubt to write each day. Congratulations on the books you have written!

Many in this world have accomplished a lot, even up into their 80s!

Voted up ++++ and sharing

Blessings, Faith Reaper


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

Interesting hub! I feel motivated and inspired after reading this.

One good thing about writers is that they do not retire, as in other professions.

Thanks and all the best!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Billybuc, FaithReaper and ChitrangadaSharan: Thanks for the support of fellow writers. Love the observation that writers do not retire! Sorry, HP, that this hub was not a How To, but I needed to vent. Hubs are always good for that!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

I had no idea you hated the blinking cursor so much. :) Of course we are in different places in our life -- this is "your time" to write and to write big and long. In an entirely different frame of mind, I steal a little time to write short pieces here and there, so I guess I welcome the cursor. But your cursor experience is what I used to experience when I was writing the dissertation which I thought would go on forever. Wonderfully descriptive hub and just gorgeous flowers. Theresa


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM

So humorous. I enjoyed reading this. Yes, my house is immaculate when I want to avoid writing too. Your gardening though is producing some lovely flowers I see from your photos. Something good comes out of everything. I write, generally speaking, about 2,000 words per day. The problem is, nothing is gelling towards a novel. I write so far and then I'm stuck. But, I keep plodding on. Who knows what the future will bring!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Oh suzette, you just mentioned 2000 words a day and that is quite admirable. Then I got depressed -- I had just finished responding at length to one of my former students, talking about grad school opportunities. Just as I was ending it I noticed it was 987 words long! I could have written a hub in that time! Oh well. :) Just struck me a s funny. :)

Maybe the novel will gel. I don't ever want or intend to write a novel.. Maybe one day, a book of essays or poems, maybe. Right now I have eight or nine more years of full time teaching to focus on. Take care. Theresa


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Suzette: If I wrote 2000 words every day I could have a set of encyclopedias by now. Thanks for the encouragement. You too, Theresa. And you are absolutely right about something good coming from everything. Thank a loving God.


Blond Logic profile image

Blond Logic 3 years ago from Brazil

I thought it was only me. Phew!

If my ironing and raking are done, it is because I am procrastinating with writing.

Unlike yourself, I have yet to finish a book. I have a working title though, Best Seller #1. LOL

The quotes you have selected are perfect, I may use Stephen King's as a desktop reminder.

Thanks for this.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

How's the book coming along, Kathleen? You're so prolific with hubs (plus all that house-cleaning, shopping and gardening!) that any progress you make on it is positive. Here's wishing that you're visited by the muse daily. I'm anxious to read your mystery all the way through!

Jaye

P.S. I mostly read only before I go to sleep these days, though I sometimes read a couple of HOURS before going to sleep. It's hard to break the reading habits of a lifetime....


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Jaye: The mystery is growing legs. I have a possible ending and a good ways through a beginning. I just need to fill in the middle!!! I can't wait for it to be finished as well because I never know what's going to happen until I write it. Thanks for the encouragement. I'm making a lot of progress because, besides being too hot in Georgia to garden it also keeps raining. That keeps me inside and, as I've written about adnausium, I don't like housecleaning.

Blonde: I'll bet most of us hubbers are in the same boat, otherwise we'd all already be best-selling authors! Love your title!!! That was the title of Philippa Gregory's first book and look where she is!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

Checked in to see if anything was happening in the feed and saw that beautiful purple iris, so of course I had to see what it was about.

I'm a lot like you in that I can find a gazillion things to do in order to avoid writing. Even once getting started doesn't keep me from finding a distraction. In fact the cleaning distracts me from writing and then I come back to the writing to distract me from the cleaning! Nice to know somebody else has these issues sometimes too.

Since you've already accomplished so much then it's probably just your way of thinking things through and once that's done you'll sit down and finish it in no time.

Your irises are really gorgeous so I had to pin a couple of them to my 'Purple II' board. :)


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

I'm thrilled my iris are being shown off. I'm also thrilled to think someone thinks I've accomplished something. That's what we are all trying to do, right?


CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

Kathleen, I totally hear you! This happens to me when I am trying to find inspiration for my next craft project. I procrastinate when everything seems to come so naturally. I hold back on what I am best at, but plug away at other things I think I'm not so great at. It's the funniest thing! And I love irises!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

CraftytotheCore: I use pictures of my irises with a lot of my hubs! Glad to find a kindred spirit.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Just added a wonderful video to this hub that a very encouraging friend sent me today. For all of us struggling writers, it's great to hear honesty from one who has reached the top!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 17 months ago from Queensland Australia

Excellent hub Kathleen..I am a bit late reading it though. Did you ever get to finish that 3rd novel that you were trying to avoid writing :) ?

I know we hould try t write every day but I don't..I manage about three days per week. I am the opposite to you however, I put off other important things by writing instead. If I am stuck for a subject I do just start writing off the bat and hopefully something amazing happens and it turns into a hub. Beautiful irises by the way. Voted up.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 17 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Jodah: Wish I had your technique because when you just start writing, that is often when something amazing does happen. Yes, I thought I was finished with the mystery, but it's just come back from a couple of readers who gave me a great deal of work to do - thank God for them! But my husband, who hasn't had the benefit of a steady paycheck from me for several years now, actually is the source for the idea for my next book. (What a sentence! Thank God I don't write for a living!) So I'm starting the research while I tackle the edits on the mystery. Thanks for the read and all the best with your creative efforts.


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 17 months ago from Chicago Area

Perfect description of substituting "busyness" for the "business" of writing! All too tempting for sure. Thanks for sharing your challenges since they are shared by many of us writers at some point or another!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 17 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thanks Heidi: It's always good to know my neurosis is not just me. Good luck with yours.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 16 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

I'm recycling this article because I'm starting my sixth book. My garden never looked better . . .

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