Ann Gelder

Ann Gelder
December 31
A writer and recovering academic. You can read my work in Alaska Quarterly Review, Crazyhorse, Flavorwire, Portland Review, The Millions, The Rumpus, and Tin House. I have taught comparative literature at Stanford and Berkeley. My first novel, Bigfoot and the Baby, will be published by Bona Fide Books in spring 2014.


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MARCH 13, 2012 12:03PM

Staying in touch with your writing

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Over the last few weeks I've been fairly consumed with editing work. Which is good! Very, very good! But it has left me a tad depleted on the verbal front, not to mention reluctant to spend any more time in front of a computer screen than necessary. So I didn't work on my novel that much.

However, this wasn't the same kind of hiatus that I've allowed to happen in the past, because I recalled some advice I read years ago. I really wish I could remember who wrote this, but the gist was, even if you can't actually write, find a way to "stay in touch with your writing." So I decided to do that. At least once a day, for maybe fifteen minutes, I thought about my novel--specifically, the point where I'd left off on my revisions. I did this while making dinner, or just before going to sleep. I tried to fully inhabit that place in my novel, without rushing off to take notes or open the file on the computer. So as not to overload the experience with layers of worry, I told myself I'd recall what I'd imagined when the time came, and that the important thing was to be in that place, if only for a few minutes every day.

That seems to have worked. Later in the week, and yesterday, I found an hour here or there to actually open the file and work. And unlike in the past, when I just shoved my own work completely aside in favor of the paid stuff, I was able to dive right back in. I did remember what I'd thought of (and expanded on it). Also, I suspect that setting aside the anxiety about not writing actually helped me find time to work. I accepted that I might only have an hour, or less, but that I could still do something with that time. I didn't spend time lamenting the time I didn't have.

In short, I think worrying about not writing is worse than simply not writing. This doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing enterprise, i.e. either you have four hours a day to work, or you have nothing. Writing can happen in the interstices. So find a way to stay in touch. That's my advice for today.

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Good advice and I'm learning the same thing. It's true, small amounts of time can be valuable too. I prefer the long stretches but now instead of thinking it's all or nothing, I agree writing "can happen in the interstices." And every now and then something good happens there.
Yes, the all-or-nothing mindset is really hard to get over. I find it applies in other areas of writing, too (perfect vs. garbage, published by major publisher vs. garbage, etc.).
There are times when I wish my "writing" would forget about me for a day or two.