Open Wounds

1000 Pages a Year

Walter Dean Myers

I saw Walter Dean Myers today. Let me be clear. I didn’t meet him – though I wanted to – as he was swarmed by New York City Department of Education Librarians and I couldn’t get close. I went to a talk he was giving at a conference I had been invited to attend to do some author speed dating. I got there early to see him speak. He was speaking about his writing, the writing process, his family, the tapestry that is his writing life. He’s an amazing writer and an amazing man. I’ve only read three of his books so far and enjoyed each of them. He’s written, as of his own count, 102 (from picture books to YA novels to a memoir).

Don’t get depressed by this but here’s some figures about his writing life. If you are a writer look away as it may knock the wind out of you. He writes 5 pages a day, every day. He works on three projects at a time. He writes about 1000 pages a year and has contracts for books to be written through 2017 – as he says, “If I live that long.” Now granted he’s about 80 and has been writing full-time for a while. But this guy is not only prolific but damned good and prolific. Read his Vietnam war book Fallen Angels. It’s incredible.

So, if you are a writer, don’t despair. You’re not him and I’m not him. Obviously, yes, but still. Every writer has their own process, their own life, job, family, kids, dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, and coral snakes (coral snakes? don’t ask, don’t ask) to factor in.

I work full-time so I don’t get in writing every day on my book, but I do write every day – at least a page of something whether it’s blog, letter writing, or novel. I work on my novel all the time (and I mean all the time) in my head but on paper one or two days a week when I can get at least an hour to work with no interruptions. I can get a full draft of a novel length work done in  a year, six months if I push it and have no social life (social life?). I used to write much more but then my son was born and I try to make sure that he comes first – though I’m not always successful. I bring my computer everywhere with me in the hope of a few minutes to write. My son and my wife both complain that I’m staring at the computer screen and not them when we talk in our dining room. Sometimes I am. Well, my computer is in the same space and our dining room is very small and I am distracted easily by shiny objects. That plus I spend so much time in my own head it stops me from being the best listener. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

It’s my process. If you’re a writer you have your own process too. The more efficient it is (write when you can write, think when you can think, procrastinate rarely) the more productive you will be. Now it’s back to work.

I’ve got a day job to get to.

And if I let this go on any longer… I’ll be procrastinating.

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