August 24, 2021 | Writing in the Crazy Times
When I wrote my first novel, I wrote simply to do it. I had always wanted to write a novel, and after many false starts, I committed to finishing one. I started with an idea, put the first words on paper, and then wrote the first half of the book without telling anyone that I was writing it. After I finished that much, it was already around 100,000 words, or about the length of a decent novel that you might get in an airport bookstore. I had no idea how long the novel would be, but based on the trend, I guessed 200,000 words. Getting that far was a milestone, and If I could do that much, I could finish it.
Stating to write a novel was simply just the first step. I had no idea how it would impact me or how much I would enjoy it. I started writing before Covid, and I wrote at night and when I traveled for work in places like airports, plane flights, and hotel rooms. I suppose these times were more “normal” – a time free from life’s chaos and events like a pandemic. I finished the first novel right as Covid picked up, started work on my second, and finished the manuscript for the second one before publishing the first.
During Covid, I learned the benefits of writing and found a hobby I loved. Moreover, it didn’t require me to spend hours away from my family, great expense, or put me in a place that would expose me to Covid. I wrote my novels mostly at night after the kids went to sleep when most people watch TV or other similar activities. For me, writing provided many things:
Catharsis – In times when stress is high, having an outlet is a way to help focus and get some of the angst out. There are many ways to do this for different people, but for me, writing was precisely that. As I wrote, having some time to just write was an excellent way to end the day. I could often feel like I got something done, something out, and would go to bed thinking about what I’m going to write next instead of worrying about the world’s problems.
Escape – An escape from reality sometimes helps soothe the soul too. As a writer, I love to get lost in the world of the characters, shaping their journeys by working through their emotions. When I started writing, I thought that I would enjoy more action-oriented scenes in the novel, like fight scenes. As I progressed, though, I found myself wanting to write dialog and introspection more. The interactions between characters feel more relatable and engaging for me.
Something to look forward to – Looking forward to writing is something that I have always done, but I can’t say I enjoy every part of a story the same. Sometimes, I write the parts I’m not as passionate about to get to the parts I want to write. Writing the last quarter of my novels tends to be this way as the story builds to the climax. On my fourth novel, I binge-wrote the last fifteen chapters or so in two days to get to the part that I really wanted to write!
No commitments – Perhaps one of the best parts about writing as a hobby is that I don’t do it for anyone. Don’t get me wrong: I do want to produce compelling stories that people will want to read. But I am not driven by schedules, sales quotas, market trends, deadlines, etc. Because I do enjoy it, it’s not like a job to me. I plan to write two more books, possibly more, and as long as I keep enjoying it, I’ll keep doing it. Either way, there’s no commitment.
These discoveries came to a head towards the middle of spring. At that time, things were looking optimistic when Covid cases fell, and more folks were getting vaccinated. It looked like we might return to “normal” at some level, but then we learned my wife had cancer. That news rocked our world more than Covid ever did. We felt the weight of the world on our shoulders at that point and had to scramble. Writing novels seemed to be superfluous at that time—how could I do something that seems trivial when the world is falling in around me?
After we found out my wife had cancer, I struggled to write because of many things that changed very quickly with that diagnosis. In short order, we had to rearrange our lives. But as we settled into a new pattern, I found writing to be one of the few things in life that were not crazy. The thing I thought was superfluous was perhaps one of the things I needed the most because of the benefits. I’ll admit it was hard at times. I can usually write between 1,500 and 2,500 words in a given night, but at times, I was doing good to write 500 words. But 500 was better than nothing.
Over time, I managed to write more. It magnified the catharsis and escape. So long as these things stay true, I think I will continue to write. Here’s to many more novels!