The Most Wasted Day of All is That on Which We Have Not Laughed

The first half of a novel comes slowly for me. Some writers can sit down and let the story whoosh out of them, but I have to think of everything, to create everything, to draw in words the images I want readers to see. I castigate myself at times for writing so slowly, but if I finished the book quickly, I’d simply be adding one more unpublished novel to the world. And do we really need that?

So many books seem to be written as a way for writers and then later their readers to kill time. (Odd, how time such an ambiguous villain that we try to kill it while wishing we had more of it.) Perhaps books were always a way of wasting time. I came across this quote the other day: “Most of today’s books have an air of having been written in one day from books read the night before.” I can see you nodding your head in agreement. The interesting thing about this comment is that Nicolas-Sebastien Chamfort wrote it in the eighteenth century. (I don’t know who he is, either, other than that during the French revolution, he was an outspoken writer who botched his suicide. He died in 1794; his last words were, “And so I leave this world, where the heart must either break or turn to lead.”)

I try to write most days, but life tends to get in the way. Is it better to write or is it better to watch a movie with a friend? The friend, of course. And I know Chamfort would agree. He also said, “The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed.”

But I am never far from my work-in-progress. As I watched the movie, Krippendorf’s Tribe, I found myself taking notes on all the things I would have to include in my apocalyptic novel to make my new society believable: rituals, games, dancing, stories. So I covered all the bases: I was with my friend, I laughed, I worked. Not bad for a night spent not writing.

Other nights when I can’t write, I edit. I know we’re told not to edit before we’ve written the entire novel, but if the first pages aren’t quite right, they niggle at me and keep me from continuing. But the words do add up, and by the second half of the novel, I know the characters, I have the story firmly entrenched in my mind, and sometimes, just sometimes . . . whoosh!

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2 Responses to “The Most Wasted Day of All is That on Which We Have Not Laughed”

  1. Cliff Burns Says:

    You’re hanging with it, that’s the main thing. “When you can’t write, edit”, sounds like good advice for young writers. The main thing is to maintain a consistent work ethic, fight discouragement, those little voices inside your head that insist there’s no point, nothing good will come of your efforts anyway. I’ve been a pro writer for over 20 years and STILL those voices afflict me.

    Stick with it…

  2. K.S. Clay Says:

    I’ve been editing before having the work finished. I’ve had a few long breaks during which I felt like I had been mentally yanked away from the story. Going back and editing the previous chapters helped me to get myself back into the story, and correct my mistakes at the same time.

    This is interesting. For you the first half of the novel comes slowly. For me, the first half tends to come quickly and then the second half takes more time. I fully agree with taking time to enjoy non writing related activities. And actually such things can be positive for writing. Our lives inform our work, after all.


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