The Writing Life.. Guest Blogger C. Margery Kempe

Today I have a special treat for all of you. I have a very special guest that will take over the blog. C. Margery Kempe is here to talk about the writing life. Thank you for being here. It is an honour to have you take over.





I think sometimes readers get a skewed idea of the writer’s life. A good example of the real thing is Anthony Trollope, the nineteenth century novelist. Trollope made it a practice to write a thousand words every morning before going off to the Post Office, where he worked until 1867.

Everyone thinks they might want to be a writer—I know, I teach creative writing—but the only ones who become writers are those who actually persist in the process. It seems obvious, but people who dream of writing seldom consider the height of that hurdle. Writing takes time. Revision takes time as well (and that’s where the real magic happens). If you don’t find the time, you will never write.

I always have students who can make magic with words, fill pages with interesting characters and sparkling dialogue. As long as they have an assignment due, they turn out amazing work. However, when I run into them after the semester’s over and ask about their writing, they inevitably say, “I just don’t have time.”

Let me share my situation: I have a full time job. Under my own name, I write short stories, novels, plays and academic papers, as well as several blogs, one of which is a serial novel. I write under a couple of pseudonyms as well (like this one). People often seem to be amazed at my output, but it comes down to one thing: time management.

I don’t watch a lot of television. I don’t do much in the way of cleaning at home. I do think carefully about the structure of my day. I have to have play time built into it, but I give myself limits: “all right, half an hour on Facebook and then back to work.” Your schedule should never feel onerous, but you need to have one. Don’t forget rewards when you have finished something; reveling in that satisfaction makes it possible to return to work with new enthusiasm.

Deadlines are essential. If you don’t have one given to you, make your own. Put a calendar in your workspace and keep those dates religiously. Just ask yourself: do you want to be a writer? Writers write, dreamers dream. Get to work and tell the stories only you can write. Your readers will thank you.

One of the best essays I’ve ever read about writing came from the amazing Octavia Butler. Her piece, “Furor Scribendi” offered the following advice:

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not…Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent… Finally, don’t worry about imagination. You have all the imagination you need…Persist.”

C. Margery Kempe

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Comments (10)

Nerine DormanApril 27th, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Everything you’ve said here is so true. After our television blew up about a decade ago, our creativity improved by leaps and bounds. I’m always amazed at people who say they don’t have time to write. They always have time to watch TV.


Sephera GironApril 27th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Darn right writers write! I totally agree. Almost anyone with some education can write something short and sweet. Everyone has a story or many stories to tell that is unique to that person.

But to write something that will get published and after that, earn money being published, is a whole different thing. Bankers and dentists don’t “wait for inspiration” or “don’t have time” so if someone wants to be a full time author, they have to treat it as a business too.

Great article.


Rachel KenleyApril 27th, 2009 at 2:53 pm

This is a great article, CMK, and so very true.

I heard a statistic once that of the all the people who want to write a novel, only 10% will. And of the 10% who will.. only 10% of those will finish.

Making a commitment to write isn’t easy (took me until just after my 40th birthday to write and edit something to completion and then submit it), but once you make it — it’s an amazing journey.

You can’t find the time – you have to make it and occasionally steal it. But, oh, is it worth it!

Thanks for sharing!


Savannah ChaseApril 27th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I have given up TV for a year and I never missed it. The time I would spend watching I lost time to read and work on books. Now I barely watch at all. To be albe to write is amazing. The let the story flow.


Dana/InaraApril 27th, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Truer words were never written, my friend. I envy writers who have the freedom to pursue their writing full time and I admire the hell out of writers such as yourself who juggle so many things and turn out such high quality work.

Which is not to say I don’t admire my writer friends who write full time – it’s just the admiration is clouded with that envy. 🙂


Pat KempeApril 27th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

I watch Tivo when I hit the sack and get the programs I saved. Television just isn’t that great anymore. I also watch TV while on the eliptical at the gym. BTW Margery you are the only person I have met with the same last name…where are you from?


[…] Ravenous Romance, Savannah Chase, writing The oh-so-sweet Savannah Chase has featured me as a guest blogger today. I talk about the writing life and its many challenges, so hop on over and leave a comment and see […]

C. Margery KempeApril 27th, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Wow — just back from teaching and there’s already a bunch of comments!

Nerine — isn’t it amazing what a time suck television can be? It really can kill an evening. I’m so impatient I can’t watch any show with commercials in it. I get annoyed and shut it off.

Sephera — you would know! I admire your ability to write full time. I’m aiming to get there soon. You inspire me to shoot for the moon.

Rachel — I certainly believe those statistics. I’ve been coaching a friend through her first novel and even with a lot of support she’s given up many times. On the plus side, she’s also come back and started again.

Savannah — is there any better feeling than writing when it’s going well? In the last year or so I’ve had a real breakthrough with my writing that’s allowed me to write so much more easily and so much more quickly than ever before. I learn so much from each project I complete.

Dana — you and me both! I have to say I have a lot of admiration for us scrappy multi-taskers who refuse to give up on the pleasures of writing; and have a slightly envious admiration of the full-timers.

Pat — sadly this is only my pseudonym which I’ve taken from a medieval mystic who was born in King’s Lynn in Norfolk, where it’s a not uncommon name. My own name has a weird history, too (Laity). My family is Finnish and the original name was probably Laitinen, but got changed in transition. There are lots of Cornish people with the name who assume I’m Cornish (I wish! I dream of a house in Cornwall). It’s funny but being a medievalist, at least my colleagues always pronounce my name right (three syllables rather than two) because it’s also the word to refer to the lay people of the church (something any medievalist knows a lot about).


Savannah ChaseApril 27th, 2009 at 7:58 pm

oh when the words just flow you only wish you had extra hands to get everything down on the page….


Dana/InaraApril 27th, 2009 at 9:37 pm

An extra pair of hands and a few more hours in every day!


Leave a comment

Your comment

View My Stats