Confessions of a sporadic writer – Mary Ann Marlowe

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By Mary Ann Marlowe

“Write every day,” they say. Easy right? ♥

I’ve always wanted to be one of those disciplined authors who could keep a sane amount of time cordoned off to devote to a routine and a regular daily word count. I imagine a fictionalized version of myself, balancing all aspects of my life: work, family, and writing. But the real version of me has other plans.

When I’m inspired, writing is an all-consuming obsession, and all else becomes collateral. I neglect the kids and the housework, forget to eat or exercise, and fail to read books or watch TV. Once the first draft is finished, I still work every day, revising, then tinkering and polishing, until one day, I find that my “every day writing” is more procrastination than production. Yes, I’m writing every day, but it’s a habit that’s keeping me from moving on to anything new. The fear sets in: If I stop writing the old, what do I do next?

Fictional me would be able to open a blank page and start a new project, but as obsessed as I get when I’m drafting, the moment I stop, I’m bereft. I go dormant. I lie fallow. When this first happened, I thought, “Welp. I’m no longer a writer.” My words were tapped out. What does a writer do when a writer isn’t writing every day?

I’ve written nine books now and eventually learned not to panic. I’ve discovered that I’m a sporadic writer, and that’s okay. That’s what works for me. So what do I do in those days-weeks-months between books?

First and foremost, I recharge. I attend to all those things I neglected before. I reconnect with my kids. I dig out the gym fob. I make a half-assed attempt to clean (let’s face it: writing was just an excuse for my messy house). But most importantly, I read. I read unpublished novels for friends and published novels to help hone my craft. I plug back into the real world to refill my well so I’ll have something new to say the next time I sit down and lose myself in a fictional world.

I’ve come to realize that even if I’m not writing words towards a book every day, I’m still writing, though it may only be narrated stories in my mind as I watch people at the grocery store or jokes I tell my teenager to make her roll her eyes and groan. It’s all grist for the mill.

“Write every day” means: Everything is writing. I’ve gained the faith and patience to believe that out of every day experiences and reading, an idea will spark. And soon, I’ll be once again in my cave, oblivious to everything but the world of my own imagining.

When not writing, Mary Ann Marlowe takes karate with her kids (she has a second degree black belt) and works by day as a computer programmer/DBA. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms. She has lived in twelve states and three countries and loves to travel. She now lives in central Virginia where she is hard at work on her third novel. A Crazy Kind of Love is out today.

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