Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Samantha Garner : my (small press) writing day

I'm always intimidated and inspired in equal measure by highly-structured writing routines. I'd love to be a disciplined writer, waking up with the sun and nestling myself into my perfect writing space, which of course will impart creativity by osmosis. I'd somehow make a cup of tea without disturbing my sleeping husband and dog, and by the time they awoke, I would have written 2,000 words, as fresh as a daisy.

In reality, though, my writing day is more . . . let's say "freeform." Though intellectually I am a morning person, I also have the sort of insomnia that manifests as my eyes flying open at 3am, so when my husband's alarm goes off I'm more likely to burrow down into the blankets and groan consolingly to myself. From time to time I do fling off my blankets with confidence and squeeze in some 6am writing, but those days are rare and I don't trust them.

Once we've eaten and my husband leaves for work, there's a strangely magical half hour where the world is still quiet and I feel like the only one awake, where it's possible to dash off a few inspired sentences. But once I resolve to take the dog out, the magic breaks apart like smoke. If the morning is nice I might return home with the spirit of it clinging to me and channel it into my writing. But more often than not, it's time to work day-job work.

I'm a freelance writer, so my days are spent largely in a strange state of working and writing and thinking about one while I'm doing the other. I sit down at my desk to work-write something, and my gaze and attention pass over the notebook I use for write-writing. Or I'm write-writing and I get the nagging sense that I've been at it too long, and I need to move onto the next task in my work-write list. Working from home can feel like a mixed blessing - on paper I have all the time in the world to write; I should have written ten novels by now. But when I'm on the clock, my head tends to stay there even if I'm not actually performing work at the time. On the plus side, though, sometimes my bed is my office.

Sometimes I'll haul self and laptop to a coffeeshop to write, and I try to ignore the existence of wi-fi. There's something about making that walk to a different location and paying money for coffee and a snack that snaps my brain to attention, and I'm always, always productive. Other times, I leave my laptop at home and just walk aimlessly. Whether I'm actively thinking about my novel or not, there's a general loosening that Doris Lessing discusses in volume two of her autobiography: "Work begins. I do not sit down but wander about the room. I think on my feet, while I wash up a cup, tidy a drawer, drink a cup of tea, but my mind is not on these activities ... And this goes on when you are shopping, cooking, anything. You are reading but find the book has lowered itself: you are wool-gathering. The creative dark. Incommunicable."

Despite how this makes me seem like I wobble about my writing life, careening off walls and distracting myself, I find these little micro-routines are much better for me. Maybe I'm not the sort of person who can or should have a highly-disciplined writing routine. Maybe it's best to snatch out little moments and inspirations. Stolen victories, and a completed novel at the end of it.

Samantha Garner's short fiction and poetry has previously appeared in Broken Pencil, Sundog Lit, Kiss Machine, The Fiddlehead, Storychord, and WhiskeyPaper. Her novel The Quiet is Loud will be published by Invisible Publishing in Fall 2021. She is based in Toronto.

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