|Inspiration (William-Adolphe Bouguereau)|
5am Get up and write for two hours
7am Walk the dog
8am Breakfast with wife [big clue there]
9am -1pm Write
1pm Lunch with wife [ditto]
6pm Gin and Tonic
7pm Dinner with wife [get the picture?]
8-10pm Listen to opera
Sadly, this is the image that many non-writers have of those who do what I do. Quite apart from the fact that I never get up at 5am and have no dog or wife, I do wonder when these 10-hour-a-day novelists (usually novelists) ever did all the other things that aren't writing. Let me list some of them, in the rough chronological order of the life of a book - all except the actual writing:
Quiet thinking time
Researching (expands to fill available time)
Writing proposals or synopses and sample chapters
Re-writing and self-editing until the book or sample is fit to send
Dealing with publisher's edits [these may go back and forth]
Dealing with copy-edits [ditto]
Looking at and commenting on illustration roughs [only applies to children's writers]
" " " " " layouts (ditto)
Looking at book jacket visuals
Writing or editing/approving cover copy
Reading and checking proofs [often more than one round]
(Suggesting scenario for book trailer - optional)
Taking part in a Blog Tour [anything from one or two pieces written up to a month's worth] - increasingly not optional
Promoting book by book-signing tour, Festivals, Press interviews, school visits [children's writers]
Social networking on Facebook, Twitter etc.
(Reading reviews - optional)
Answering readers' letters and emails.
All that is for one book and if you write several a year, this work on them will overlap.
Then in general if you are writer with an interest in the industry, there will be these things, many of which are optional:
Attending Festivals as part of audience
Book Fairs (London, Frankfurt, Bologna)
Reviewing other writers' books
Sitting on book prize committees
Maintaining your own blog (at least once a week) - increasingly expected by publishers
Guesting on other people's blogs
(Being part of a joint blog - optional)
Keeping your website updated
(Making up-to-date PowerPoints for presentations)
e-mailing agent, editor, PR person and dealing with their queries
Reading other books in your field to keep up
Putting in expenses claims
(Teaching creative writing courses/acting as RLF Fellow etc)
And the things that everyone does, especially freelances who work for themselves:
Keeping accounts up to date
Issuing invoices to Festivals, newspapers, (schools) etc.
(VAT quarterly if registered)
Tax payments twice yearly
Of course if you are wealthy or have a wealthy partner, you won't need to do all those things and there will also be some you can delegate to others, whom you pay to do them. But a day that is a mosaic or patchwork of several of the above is much more common than the 10 hours a day exclusively devoted to the actual business of writing, especially if you are a woman.
The lovely painting above shows a woman waiting for inspiration. The most common question questions asked of writers are "Where do you get your ideas from?" or "What inspired you to ...?" It has always baffled me. Why would you take on such an arduous, precarious and ill-paid career as writing if you were not simply teeming with an inexhaustible swarm of ideas begging to be turned into books?
The majority of my friends are published writers, people who make a living from writing books and though I have heard them talk about many aspects of their lives from money to research, agents to RSI, I have never once heard one of them use the word "inspiration."
What we all want more of is time, time to concentrate on "just writing" and that's why writers' retreats are so popular. You go somewhere remote and rural, without a phone signal, and divest yourself of all the things that aren't writing. You even have surrogate wives to cook for you. But it costs; it's a rare treat.
This is a Twitter hashtag developed by highly-motivated American writer Johanna Harness (@johannaharness). She has made a website for it too Every day on Twitter Johanna asks, "Are you writing?" or "What are you writing?" and using that hashtag, writers reply. So often I have to modify it to #amediting or #amrewriting or #amthinkingaboutmybook. Johanna kindly says it all counts and it does.
But it doesn't look always look like writing.