Marsha Canham's Blog

October 25, 2010

How a writer copes with her own writing

Filed under: Uncategorized — marshacanham @ 2:54 pm

Eve Sanders suggested a blog about this on my Facebook page after I suggested I needed a poke to get me started.
Eve wrote:
“gee…how about writing about how a writer copes with her own writing.  Like, how the heck do you smoothly return to reality after you just wielded your crossbow fighting off enemies in a medieval castle, you’ve been made love to in a forest glade by a man too beautiful your eyes hurt…how do you get back to cooking a meal or doing the laundry?? LOL”

Ahh yes…immersing oneself all day in a forest glade, crunching along the earthy-smelling paths, crouching low in a sea of ferns while armored knights ride past searching for you.  Then springing up and letting loose with a few arrows before running madly through the trees, out of breath, desperate, frantically leading the furious riders thundering after you away from the hidden campsite deep in the greenwood…heart pounding, blood rushing through the veins…a crossbolt hisses past your ear and you duck and weave and crash through the underbrush…knowing they’re gaining, laughing, chasing you into a trap….then hearing the faint ping ping ping of a distant buzzer that’s been going for a while to let you know the roast you put in the oven four hours ago is now a hockey puck.

When I get fully into a book…I get fully into it.  The muse keeps me awake half the night suggesting little twists and turns and plotlines and the images play out like a movie reel, not quite a dream state, but not quite awake.  Breakfast consists of coffee, then it’s into the dungeon…aka office…where anywhere between six and fourteen hours get spent elaborating on those images that have crowded the brain all night.

When Stupid still lived here, he knew better than to try to talk to me while I was in writing mode.  I need complete and total silence when I work, so the times he was unemployed or just home on the weekends, he took his life in his hands if he made any noise.  Once I nearly snapped his head off (not a bad thought, in hindsight) for standing in the door of my office, not saying anything, just standing there.  I could feel him.  I waited, thinking he would go away, but he didn’t.  He just hovered.  I lifted my head slowly…started to turn…he cringed back and shrank against the hall wall pleading mercy, he had just wanted to know if I wanted a cup of tea.

If I wanted effing tea, I would have made it myself.

Even the neighbours were better trained than he was.  They knew if they didn’t see me for days on end that I was in “Dungeon Mode” and few even dared to phone.

I recall one particular evening, in the midst of dungeon mode, when we were invited for dinner to a friend’s house with several other couples.  Grudgingly I left a crucial poker game on board the Mississippi Queen and sat silently in the car for the drive over, having just left my hero thinking he’d just made wild passionate love to the evil twin…and walked into a room full of couples who were gathered around a TV watching a white bronco driving along a California freeway.  No one was talking. No one said much beyond hello.  They were all watching this farking white bronco.  I thought maybe I had entered an alternate universe. I finally snapped and said:  WTF???  They all looked at me like I had grown two heads because who, in the civilized world, hadn’t been following the story of O.J. Simpson murdering his wife?

Well….me.  I hadn’t watched TV or listened to the radio for days, and frankly, my evil twins were far more interesting than the Simpson drama.

I don’t know how other writers handle it.  Maybe because I need to totally immerse myself, I find myself resenting the intrusions of daily life.  I love my pirates.  I love the thrill of putting myself on board a ship in the middle of a battle at sea and acting out all the parts, swinging from the rigging, slashing away with a cutlass.  Leaving that to clean toilets just seemed bizarre.

I once exploded at Stupid when he whined that dinner wasn’t ready and wtf did I do all day while HE was out working hard at the office.  Steam, I tell you.  Steam came out of my ears.  I pointed out that yes, he got up at 7 and drove to the office and worked all day and drove back home at 6:30, worn out from shmoozing all day with bosses, talking business over lunch, fretting over numbers and balancing accounts for corporations.  He looked forward to dinner, a glass of wine, putting his feet up and watching TV.  Woo hoo. Drag those knuckles, buddy.  I got up at 7, after maybe two or three hours sleep/plotting…grabbed a coffee and went into the dungeon…worked through lunch…worked all afternoon (and honestly, days like that, you look at the clock and it says 9:30, you look again in what feels like ten minutes later and it says 6:15).  When he left his office, he got to go outside, get in the car, drive home.  When I left my office, I got to walk down the stairs and see the same clutter that was there in the morning.  When he got to fret over figures with his co-workers, I got to argue with my characters.  When he got frustrated when his numbers didn’t add up, he’d have others to blame.  When I got frustrated that the storyline sucked or the characters were wimps or I had written myself into a corner and couldn’t get out…I got to toss out a hundred pages and start all over from scratch.  He looked forward to dinner, a glass of wine, and TV…I looked forward to looking out the window to see if it was spring, summer, or fall.

Cry me a river, buddy.

Do I regret any of it?  Would I choose another profession knowing what I know now about the solitude and isolation?  Not a chance.  The thrill of living out my fantasies through my characters, through my stories, is something not too many people can understand.  Other writers, movie actors, movie directors.  We’re a select breed of nutcases *s*  and I wouldn’t  give up the 17 lives I’ve lived (multiplied by the number of characters in each book) for any other kind of job.

Hmmm.  Not sure if this fit the question Eve asked, but it was a good poke *g*



  1. Author! Author! Well said, Marsha.

    Comment by jillmetcalf — October 25, 2010 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  2. Beautifully put, and very true.

    Comment by Anna C. Bowling — October 26, 2010 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

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