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A Writer’s Spare Time

It would be fair to ask “What does a writer do when she’s not writing?”

I’ve asked myself that several times and the last time was today. I can only answer from my own experience. Nevertheless, the first question I answered long ago is “What constitutes writing”?

For me, writing means anything having to do with active thought, preparation, and execution of the writing process. That means I’m writing when I study writing, or when I’m gathering information, doing marketing research, etc. All of that takes far more time than sitting down to the keyboard and pounding out words.

Today I pounded out a website post and two blog postings. I took an active stab at plotting an adult novel that I’ve begun. I also read in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lost road and Other Writings; Language and Legend Before ‘The Lord of the Rings’,” edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien . That last one was studying of a very serious kind.

Why do I say that’s serious study?

Christopher Tolkien inherited his father’s notes for the “Ring” series. That in itself was a fortune in knowledge. He then took it upon himself to organize, edit, and publish the entire compilation as a scholarly series detailing the work and dedication his father put forth to create “Middle-earth” and its peoples, cultures, languages, etc.

There are thirteen books in the “History of Middle-earth.” Within these volumes are the maps, etymology texts of the various languages, plotting schematics, etc. that J.R.R. Tolkien created in order to build his world. Having waded through the first chapter and scanned what comes after, I can say that I stand in awe of the mind that worked out all of these puzzles to the nth degree and then managed to write such marvelously fluid stories.

Would that I could envision a world as complex and detailed as Tolkien. For anyone who has ever wondered why it would take anyone ten or more years to write one book, all they have to do is open on of the history volumes presented to the world by Tolkien’s son.

Not many will take the time or have the ability to create complete languages and etymological dictionaries. Not many have the soaring knowledge base to build cultures with long histories to create anthropological treatises around them. I bow to an absolute master of the art.

Writing Demands Study

Constant study is necessary for writers, whether it’s formal or not. Ask any good writer what they spend time doing in their spare time and most will say that they read a great deal. Some will say they are voracious readers.

Some read genres entirely different from what they concentrate their writing efforts on perfecting. Others devour all levels of books within the genre they prefer writing. Some read anything that comes to hand but write only in one or two categories.Tastes and preferences are as individual as titles on a shelf.

Besides the books and articles already on the market which tell the writer what not to write, there‘s market information that’s critical to the business of writing. Studying the market is half the battle for many writers. If one doesn’t know what’s going on in their own field, how can they hope to be competitive.  Regardless of what any want to think, this is a competitive business with many ins and outs. One of these days I might just feel adequate to the task, though not for a long while.

There’s the social networking that must be maintained with writer’s forums, chat groups, critique groups, blogs and/or websites. A writer needs to maintain a presence both on the internet and within the physical world through workshops and conferences. Actual writing time accounts for a minority of the working clock hours.

I’ve heard grumbling among the writer’s community that all the running around making connections and maintaining them gets them nowhere but a seat on the frustration train. That’s how I feel many days.

End Results

After reading the work of other writers, trying to come up with ideas of my own for something that will publish well, and studying something new to try, energy dwindles fast. While I’m practicing what I already know, the writing world seems to move faster and faster. There is never a feeling of catching up with it–at least, not for me.

A time comes for working on specific projects. Yet, as the writer sorts material, character studies, plot timelines, etc. more information becomes necessary. While describing one aspect of a setting, a question arises as to actual colors or size and shape.

A pause—the writer pulls out research done weeks or months before. Correction, clarification, or concurrence. The writer moves forward accordingly.

And so proceeds the project. Not even pounding that keyboard allows for lack of interruption. Life doesn’t work that way, you see.

One secret many don’t talk about is that while writing on one project, ideas for additional articles and stories pop up from the current sentence under the fingers. It never ends. Never! Don’t anyone mention family life and holding down any other job.

On that note, I think I’ll get some sleep for tomorrow.

A bientot,


  1. March 23, 2011 at 12:24 am

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  3. April 16, 2011 at 6:07 am

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