No, I Don’t Write Every Day

By Mark Alpert

in game two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

in game two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Most of the time, I love writing fiction. But there are days, and even weeks, when I’m just sick and tired of it.

It’s so much easier to simply read. After I finished writing the first draft of my latest novel, I celebrated by going on a reading binge. Over the past two weeks I’ve read five novels. Right now I’m in the middle of Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. It’s very good!

I’m also getting caught up in the baseball playoffs. We’re a Yankees family — I can’t help it, my parents are from the Bronx, it’s in our blood — but lately we’ve been rooting for the Mets. It was the Chase Utley slide that did it. Everyone in New York suddenly forgot all their differences when they saw Utley throw himself at Ruben Tejada. The whole city arose in righteous fury and kicked the Dodgers right out of the postseason.

Here’s another great distraction: the new season of The Walking Dead just started. God, I love that show.

And I’m taking some time to observe things more carefully. My wife, my kids. Everything’s moving along so quickly. Too much homework, not enough sleep. There are parent-teacher conferences next week, and next spring we have to start visiting colleges. A lot of meltdowns and miscommunication, but occasionally something amusing happens. Recently, my son was impressed when he discovered I knew who Bobby Shmurda was. (In truth, I knew about the guy only because I saw his last name somewhere and thought it was funny, so I looked him up on Wikipedia.)

Soon enough, I’ll return to that first draft and start making the changes that my editor wants. And then I’ll start a new novel, based on an idea that’s still pretty nebulous in my mind but could be very interesting if I can figure out how to structure it. But right now, I don’t want to even think about it.

I want to listen to other people’s stories for a change. And I’m looking forward to the Mets-Cubs game tonight.

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About Mark Alpert

Contributing editor at Scientific American and author of science thrillers: Final Theory (2008), The Omega Theory (2011), Extinction (2013), The Furies (2014), The Six (2015), The Orion Plan (2016), The Siege (2016), and The Silence (2017). His latest thriller, The Coming Storm (St. Martin's Press, 2019), is a cautionary tale about climate change, genetic engineering, and Donald Trump. His website: www.markalpert.com

13 thoughts on “No, I Don’t Write Every Day

  1. I can relate to this article. I’ll go on several weeks of writing binges. When I’m done with the draft, all I want to do is read… a lot. I’ve tried to achieve more of a balance because I am a believer in the daily word quota. However, I will take breaks from a project and write something completely random if I have to. Sometimes stepping away from a project makes sense. It’s like exercise. You need breaks to let your body recover.

  2. Mark, thanks for letting me and other like me know that we’re not alone. I’m glad you posted this. It balances what so many other authors say. Sometimes,stuff like baseball season and life in general intervene.

  3. There is absolutely no way I could write every day. Even if many problems in life didn’t intervene, even if I had the most ideal life ever, I still could not write every day and keep the creative juices flowing. Breaks from it are a necessity. You gotta fill up the tank some time.

  4. Yeah, and if the shoe were on the other foot (literally) I’m sure all of NY would be saying it was just “good, hard baseball.”

    Ahem.

    Though my heart is torn out, I have to tip my blue cap to Mr. Daniel Murphy, who made one of the greatest “heads up” plays ever by stealing third on a walk. The run he scored there made all the difference when he hit that go-ahead dinger.

    As far as writing, I try to get it all in before the game! (I do take all of Sunday off, though, for a valuable recharge)

    • True, it’s not a game for the faint of heart. I’m referring to both baseball and writing.

      Right now I’m at a place called Baseball Heaven. No joke! It’s one of those youth tournament complexes, in the lovely town of Yaphank, Long Island. My son’s playing second base and I’m shivering on the bleachers. It’s too cold. The season’s almost over.

  5. I’m with you, Mark. I don’t feel compelled to write every day. I tried to stick to that once…made it a whole month. But it made me crabby and resentful toward the work. I don’t take long breaks, esp when the book is moving along well, but I don’t feel a bit guilty for not doing something every day.

    During my month stay in France, I did nothing but READ good books, like you. That made me more eager to get back to work than anything. And it’s never a bad idea to spend time with family and good friends. As John Lennon wrote, life is what happens when you’re making other plans. (or writing a book at times!)

  6. I would write every day if I could! I love to write, my problem is that I write for several different audiences and it gets tiring switching back an forth. There’s the blog, there’s the fictional novel, there’s the paper on Communications and Ethics. If I could just pick one audience, I think I could work steadily without feeling burned out.

  7. I’ve gotten my last draft of my novel to my publisher. It’s time to enjoy the tacos y burros y tamales and movies and books and other recreations I’ve bypassed. Not going to write another word who knows how long?

    Now that doesn’t mean the writing pressures aren’t still there. My publisher would rather I had simply taken a deep breath,
    eaten lunch, and started on The Grandfather Complot that afternoon.

    But grandfathers mean grandchildren, a beautiful grandma, and children. And so it goes.

    Besides, today I’ve got a cold, Arizona State, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Arizona are playing. There is popcorn to make, Diet Pepsi to drink, and I have a taco or two in my immediate immediate future. (Yes, that’s two immediates, indicating urgency.)

    And internet Doo wop Radio.com beckons.

    Sí, nos ridefor la fortaleza y la victoria!

    Immo, nos ridefor castellum et victoria!

  8. Update: we lost both games. But the team is meeting at Aplebee’s for dinner tonight. That’s the real value of youth sports: the camaraderie, the funneling of teenage energies into non-destructive pursuits. Or at least not so self-destructive. And writing? Is it supposed to be constructive or destructive? Or both?

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