Sometimes I have to take a step back and wonder why, after a hard day of work with a lot of writing involved, I feel the urge to sit down at my personal computer and write some more.
While it’s hardly as grueling as some of the jobs out there, most writers and reporters can attest to plenty of days of sore fingers and wrists from hours of typing. Between answering e-mails and putting together articles and columns, most reporters probably write thousands of words each day. I’m often relieved to close the laptop and go for a walk, or read a book, or watch TV. But there are also plenty of days when I’m eager to transition to work on a personal project.
A friend posited the question to me recently as to whether news writing cripples one’s ability to do creative writing. Putting together a factual account of a City Council meeting is certainly a little different than, say, creating the Harry Potter universe. And I suppose there’s always the danger inherent in a lot of jobs, namely that something you love to do can get ruined when you start doing it for a paycheck and give up at least some personal control.
Thankfully, writing articles maintains a pretty strong creative element. Whenever I sit down to put one together, I have to create a cogent narrative from a collection of chicken scratch notes, interviews, primary source documents, and/or some pictures and video clips. Plus I get to use words like “cogent.”
Even though this can be a lot of fun, though, it can also be quite draining. Sometimes I finish up a City Council story totally exhausted and in no mood to bring up my book or blog to review. And if this isn't completed until 1 or 2 a.m., as has happened before, there's pretty much nothing to do but go to bed.
Most of the time I get around this issue by simply doing other writing in the morning. I'll set the alarm a little earlier, and . Stephen King, in his excellent book On Writing, notes how everyone has a time and a place that works well for them when it comes to writing. He cites one author who started writing early in the morning, stopped mid-sentence when it was time to get on with the day’s duties, and resumed in the evening. A former co-worker, who was a novelist on the side, did all of his writing after midnight because he liked the feeling of being the one person in the world who was awake.
Me, I’m content with picking away at something over breakfast. I can usually get a half hour to an hour of work done. Like I mentioned in my column on , it works remarkably well. Even just completing a few sentences or paragraphs a day can add up quite quickly.
I know plenty of people who have said they love to write, but just can’t find the time. And as with the matter of reading, I’ve got to point out that time’s not really an issue. There’s plenty of it out there, and all it takes is a few minutes a day at the keyboard.
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