Odilia Rivera Santos
One of the complaints I hear a lot from other writers is that they don’t have time to write.
It isn’t a question of time, but motivation. Some of my favorite writers have written books in between chopping rocks in a gulag and a meal of gruel. Every productive writer has his or her own method for remaining constant as far as a writing schedule is concerned.
When I was teaching in an adult education program full-time, nine to five, and teaching part-time in the evenings, six to nine, I still managed to write for hours every day. I would write in the morning, during my lunch break, and during my commute to and from the day job to the night job. By the end of the day, I had completed poems, outlines for stories or novels or some essays to post on my blogs.
Sometimes, writers are looking for an ideal situation -- some Hemingway-esque cabin in Cuba with a hammock on the porch. But what really matters for an artist is to stay productive and to always seek ways of challenging ourselves to avoid getting in a rut. And the definition of ‘productive’ can vary; there can be flexibility in one’s view of productivity. I occasionally abandon the written word and spend time observing people or go to museums to visit art. Switching from the literary to visual has a way of dislodging me from any feeling of routine when I need to abandon routines, as useful as they are.
I took a break from submitting my work to journals in 2006 and just wrote.
Prior to this self-imposed submission break, I had done well getting my work in journals I respected, but I wanted time to develop long-term ideas and concepts without the interruption of an arbitrary deadline. In 2008, I decided to start a blog with the idea its subject matter would be intentionally unclear. I allowed myself to think on this site with very few visits until my aim came into focus. In the last five years, I have written plays, screenplays, short stories, hundreds of poems, hundreds of blog posts, and a novel of which I am proud. I began to submit work to journals again last year, but my relationship with faceless editors who choose whether to publish my work has changed. I always had an independent streak and realized both teaching and writing offered a modicum of autonomy, which I found very satisfying.
I give myself assignments in order to keep my productivity flowing.
Recently, I decided to organize some poetry readings; one reading was erotic poetry and prose and the other was on Puerto Rican identity, history and place, so I gave myself an assignment: write thirty pages of new material for each reading. I met my goal and now have a twenty-five-page manuscript, covering our migration from an island to the South Bronx, taking a trip to Cuba -- which was important because the culture was so similar to that of Puerto Rico when I was a child, and class issues. I am submitting the manuscript to a Latino journal today. The erotica collection will find a home as well.
There is something to be said for structure for any kind of goal one may have.
I give myself assignments and find this is the most efficient way to get ideas to flow. It appears the brain is quite adept at organizing information once there is a clear purpose. I wrote 365 poems on the subject of love for my poetry blog, 150 pages of autobiographical essays and even did some artist interviews as a means of keeping my writing interesting.
Socializing is important because we humans are social animals, but writing is a solitary practice, unless your plan is to write for a television show in which case, you would be sitting in a room with a bunch of people. Together, as you eat bear claws and drink designer coffee, you would build a show line by line, joke by joke, etc.
Regular non-collaborative writing can be very challenging for very social people.
Some people need applause and constant attention. I don’t. I love solitude.
Even though I love being alone, sometimes, I crave solitude with company and go to a coffee shop in order to be surrounded by people. I may be completely absorbed in my work and looking only at the computer screen but part of my brain enjoys a little ambient noise. I rarely write in silence. There is either music or someone talking while I write.
I go online and download podcasts on a variety of subjects. Podcasts allow me to ‘read’ while I write. I listen to programs in Spanish, French and English and also download lectures on subjects I wish to study. The life of a writer requires constant intellectual challenge so as to be able to write for a variety of audiences and to create multi-dimensional characters. Linguistic pliability doesn’t come in a pill or through osmosis. As I am writing this, I am downloading podcasts in French and some London Business School of Entrepreneurship lectures. After all, to write about something, you have to know something.
Take a writing course with me! http://skl.sh/lGWoDn
Get this blog for your Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/6yjk637
My slim volume of nonfiction essays is published!
Latinalogue, Puerto Rican Nonfiction Part I http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/69697