Saturday, June 28, 2014

What do I do when I'm not writing?

Every once in a while when I’m doing an interview, or maybe filling out a bio sheet, this question crops up:

“When you’re not writing, what do you do?”

And I just laugh and laugh.

So what do I do when I’m not writing? Let’s see . . . it’s been a while . . .

Well, I sleep. Okay, not much. Maybe four hours? Five? Whatever length of time the dogs will let me.

And sometimes I dream. I dream plot lines. I dream about my characters, about conversations they’ve had, about places they’ve gone and things they’ve done. Sometimes I even have to get out of bed and write something down so I won’t forget it by the time I wake up, because it’s really, really good. That cuts into my sleep.

Wait. If I’m doing all that, then I’m writing.

Okay, I’m cooking. I have to cook eventually, because I have to eat – eventually. I cook myself eggs. Most of the time I just fix fruit to eat. Sometimes I get something frozen out of the freezer. Sometimes it’s the meatloaf that one of my characters makes. Sometimes I cook something from one of their recipes. And sometimes, while I’m cooking whatever it is, I think about them, what they’d cook, who would be there with them, what they’d be talking about.

And that means I’m still writing.

Well, what about this? I go to the store. The big store. You know the one, the huge one that has everything. Correction: It has everything if they’d just stock the shelves (my pet peeve). And I always take a list. If I don’t take a list, there’s no point in me going to the store. It’s time wasted because I come home with less than a quarter of the stuff on the list. While I’m in the store, I’m watching all the time, watching for people who look like my characters. This one’s got her eyes, that one’s got his hair, this one over here has her lips. I see them everywhere. I also look at the products and try to guess which ones they’d buy. Sometimes I see something in the clothing department that I think one of them would look good in.

Nope. Writing then too.

Answering this question is harder than I thought. Maybe I go to dinner with a friend – yeah, that’s something! We talk and laugh. I order a bottle of wine, and I think about how one of my characters really likes wine. I look at the menu and try to imagine what they’d order. While we’re having our conversation, there’s another one going on in my head, and it’s begging to be written down. Sometimes I even have trouble concentrating on the conversation because I’m thinking of my characters and what they’re saying.

I guess that means I’m writing then too.

So let’s think about the other times of day. I’m in the shower . . . Nope. They’re there too. How about when I’m driving to the mall? They’re having an argument – out loud – and people at the intersection are staring at me. Well, and then there’s the time I spend actually in my chair at my desk, writing. That’s most of the rest of it.

I’m sitting here trying to think of a time during the day that I’m not writing, and I can’t come up with a single one. Sitting on the swing, out in the kayak, washing the car. Technically speaking, I’m writing at all of those times.

And now, to answer the question: What are you doing when you’re not writing? That’s obviously not as clear-cut as it seems it should be. The question is still about what I’m doing when I’m not writing.

The answer is pretty simple. When I’m not writing I’m . . . dead. Otherwise, I’m writing.

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