… or What I Learned About Writing from Eating Candy
A long time ago, before I wrote my first novel, I despaired of ever having the time to undertake such a large and arduous project. I had two small children and my days (nights too, come to think of it) seemed hopelessly fractured; my time, or what there was of it, felt like it had been broken into the small, useless increments: fifteen minutes here, twenty there. An hour that was all my own was a rare and prized occurrence. How I was to cobble together a writing life from all these pieces was inconceivable to me. I could not work in shards, I thought. I needed some great and unbroken expanse of time, time like a freshly opened bar of chocolate: smooth, rich, and mine, mine, mine. But it was not to be, not then, and maybe not ever. If I wanted to write, I was going to have to readjust my thinking and my expectations. Instead of that glorious, unblemished chocolate bar, I had a bag of M & Ms: discrete nuggets of time that I would have to learn to use.
And I did. While my kids were at school or sports or play dates, I worked on a novel. I did plenty of other things too: wrote for magazines and the occasional newspaper, did freelance editing, worked on a children’s book.
But my mantra was two pages a day, five days a week. Two pages a day was manageable and doable; two pages was bite sized, like a Raisinette. And even though it didn’t seem like much, two pages would begin to add up: to ten pages a week, forty pages a month. Eventually a novel, which was published in 2002.
My children are older now; one is off to college this fall and the other will be a freshman in high school. Yet the chunks of time are still M & M-sized: small and finite. It doesn’t matter. Two pages a day is all I need.
Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels The Four Temperaments and In Dahlia’s Wake; her third novel, Breaking the Bank, is coming out today from Pocket Books. Yona has written 18 books for children, the most recent of which are also being published this month: The Doll Shop Downstairs (Viking) and Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott (Henry Holt). [Ed. note: I think that’s called a hat trick!] Visit her at www.yonazeldismcdonough.com.