When Writing Time is Precious

by Addie Boswell
Published on: February 24, 2014
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Comments: 2 Comments
Christopher Paul Curtis

Christopher Paul Curtis

It was years ago when I heard Christopher Paul Curtis speak, soon after The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 was published to much acclaim. I have always remembered what he said, how he wrote most of the book while working on an assembly line in Flint, MI. As I remember, he learned to do his job twice as fast as the line, so that he would have a few minutes to write in his notebook every hour. (Find the full details here, better than my memory.) I remember because I was awed and inspired by the initiative that seemed almost super-human. But over the years, I’ve met authors who wake up at 4 a.m. to write their pages before they go teach school, who write deep into the night in the laundry room after the kids go to bed, who write in their cars during soccer practice, during fifteen minute breaks at the grocery store.

Sometimes, I have a hard time saying I’m a “real” author because I don’t write every day, as some venerated (albeit male) authors say you must do.  Sometimes I don’t feel like a “real” author because I’m not willing to sacrifice kids, husband, and social time for my craft. (As Jane Austen may have done. Thoreau, of course, went one step further and gave up society completely.) Sometimes I need to reconsider what a “real” author is. Christopher Paul Curtis seems like a better model for me, and for many wives, parents, career-women and otherwise modern writers. You can write when time is precious. It’s not as romantic as being in your own attic garret and neglecting the rest of life (as Jo March liked to do.) But it may even be more efficient and productive; you may surprise yourself by writing more. What’s more important, you can write good stuff, as Christopher Paul Curtis goes to show. And the good stuff is what convinces everybody, in the end, that you are a real author. 








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2 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. I love it–my mom met Christopher Paul Curtis once and always had my English classes read The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963 in high school. I recently completed a completely revised draft of an upper-middle-grade manuscript by waking up at 5 to write for an hour before I did homework, and then went to work, and then went to school, and then came home and did more homework. I wrote six days a week that way and finished all 149 pages of the already-outlined manuscript. I honestly don’t know if I could write all day long and enjoy it the way I enjoyed the early-morning solace of writing at 5 a.m.

  2. Marta says:

    Addie… I loved this post, as finding time to write with a baby, job, and not wanting to completely sacrifice other parts of my life is SO HARD. And it’s easy to beat yourself up about it. Thanks for making me feel better, and even better… inspired!

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