In Pursuit of Kindergarten

The first time I read Lynda’s charming Monday post about how the writing life is like kindergarten, I sat back in my chair as a warm rosy glow washed over me.  Awwwww.

Then I scowled at the keyboard as a sharp, stabbity envy replaced it.

I want a kindergarten writing life.  I want Dick and Jane.  I want to get messy and plant seeds.  I want paper crowns.

But my writing life is nothing like kindergarten.  It’s painfully and by necessity shaped, bonsai-like, by clocks and schedules and compromise. 

Like a lot of writers, I have a day job, and like a lot of writers, my day job is the only thing keeping the lights on.  Every minute of every day has to be carefully rationed and parceled out to someone or something that needs sixty seconds of my attention.  More often than not, these are not the people and things that live solely in my imagination.  There is certainly a lot to learn from kindergarten, but the one thing I covet more than anything is its pacing.

Writing time?  Happens every morning from 5:30 to 6:30 am.  My brief flirtations with getting up earlier than five resulted in a dead-eyed stare at the monitor, and 6:30 is the start of other people’s days here at Chez J.  There’s a kid to jump-start and get out the door, then the Day Job, then all the household stuff that piles up in the meantime.  Everything else happens between the cracks, and any time for the extras in my writing life – conferences, social media, research, basic hygiene – is shaved away at the expense of something or someone else.

4:30 am? Too early for words.

When I was an aspiring writer, this regimen was an act of faith.  Or insanity.  Or maybe both.  I wrote four books over ten years before I sold The Wicked and the Just.  The alarm went off at five every morning.  Rejection letters came two and three a day.  I made words into pages and pages into chapters without any promises at all that it would gain me anything.

But maybe this is taken straight from the kindergarten writing life.  Pursuing something important with pure, fearless, singleminded effort.  No hesitation.  No self-consciousness.  Any self-doubt is overshadowed by a conviction that borders on hubris: I will get there.  I will chase it until I catch it.

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10 Comments

Filed under Writing and Life

10 responses to “In Pursuit of Kindergarten

  1. Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    “When I was an aspiring writer, this regimen was an act of faith. Or insanity” Wow. That about sums it up, doesn’t it? Love this. Thanks for such a wonderful follow-up, J.!

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  2. During those 10 years, J, you practiced, practiced, practiced. And without even reading THE WICKED AND THE JUST (which I’ll do the instant it’s released!), I know you’re a great writer: “Stabbity envy.” “A kid to jump start.” Extras that are “shaved away.” I am in awe of working parents who, on top of life’s daily demands, demand time and space to write. Your readers will be so grateful that you did–and succeeded.

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  3. As I think about it, I had some sweet. wonderful moments in kindergarten, but I also had one of the most publicly humiliating moments, too. Not that it was that bad, but it was shocking–the first time I realized school was going to have public humiliations. And yet I went on with my education (and on, and on) until I got the final degree. So maybe the writing life is a bit like kindgergarten after all 🙂

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      Yeah, I had my share of public humiliations in school. I wasn’t shocked, though. I had an older brother who’d refined torment to something of a high art, so I was a pugnacious little thing in blue sneakers who tried, with varying levels of success, to give as good as she got.

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  4. Agent Joan says that persistance is the one trait that all writers share in their journey to publication. I find it impressive that you have come this far in your career with only an hour a day to write. Sometimes, it seems like when we have so little time, we may actually make that time sacred, which can work much better than the loosey-goosy life of a writer who does not have a day job.

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      I know having only a set amount of time focuses the hell out of me. But I suspect that even if I could quit my job tomorrow, I’d still need to get up at stupid-thirty to write – my brain is waaaay too conditioned otherwise. I’d just write longer!

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  5. Your perseverance in honing your craft has clearly paid off, exhibited not only by your upcoming book release, but by the fact you’re able to write a short post that’s crammed with so many lovely turns of phrase. (My favorites of which have already been quoted in the comments above.) I’m very much looking forward to reading THE WICKED AND THE JUST.

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      Thanks! Language is at its best when it’s pliable. Otherwise we’d end up writing and saying the same thing over and over. Writing would sure be easier, but a hell of a lot less fun.

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