I always get a kick out of aspiring writers who whine about not having the time to write, or not having enough "peace and quiet." Professional writers know they have to write with whatever time they have, regardless of the conditions. This is especially true in television, where you need to generate a new script every week. You can’t wait to be in the mood to write — you just have to do it. A deadline is a deadline and you have to meet it. It’s also true in journalism and in the book world. Here’s a good example from the recent experience of novelist Joseph A. West, who had a mere six weeks to write his latest GUNSMOKE novel and wouldn’t even let a hurricane slow him down.
Hundred-mile-an-hour winds went
right over our roof and we were without electricity for eight days. My wife, a
resourceful woman, mail-ordered a manual typewriter that we were assured would
be delivered overnight. It arrived three weeks later. In the meantime, the staff
here at the condo complex found an old natural gas generator in the
basement that dates from the 1950s. They hooked up my laptop to the
infernal thing and I got to work immediately, having by then only lost
only a couple of days.The temperature down there in the bowels of the building was about 120
degrees, the fumes were yellow, malodorous and choking, and I had to stop
every 30 minutes to let the damned generator cool down. "Otherwise you’ll burn
down the whole fucking building," I was told by one irate
tenant .Were the words I was writing good or bad? At the time, gassed as I
was, I didn’t know. But, oh, the colors!Finally the lights came on again and I got cranking and finished the book
in the allotted time. My editor, bless him, gave me a hearty, "Well done."It was an interesting experience, but not one I’d care to repeat any time
soon.P.S. We returned the manual typewriter with a very nasty note.
As Joseph says, his story simply shows that "the life of the wretched scribe is not an easy one." But what the story shows me is the enormous dedication it takes to be a professional writer. Too few aspiring writers realize just how much it takes to achieve, and then sustain, a career as a professional writer. We have a lot to learn from guys like Joseph West.