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Writers, We’re at War


I love to write about writing, as evidenced by this catalog of posts*. In browsing through them, what strikes me hardest is my cringe-worthy hubris in the earliest posts, and how that hubris comes apart as I get deeper into my career, breaking down into an admission that my process is “fluid,” then degenerating fully into this thinly-veiled cry for help.

Don’t bother reviewing those other posts, unless you want to laugh at me. (And if that sounds good to you, by all means, have at it.)

Read this one instead.

I wrote it in late February of 2020, right before lockdown started, a few months before the launch of my second novel, The Lightness of Hands.

Allow me to share my reaction upon re-reading it: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!


In all fairness, no one [besides Bill Gates and dozens of epidemiologists worldwide] predicted that the world was about to implode. That my kids would soon be pulled out of school and into my world 24/7. That I would no longer be able to escape to a café or a pub to write, let alone Disneyland. That my quiet house was about to become three classrooms and a gym.

Since the onset of the pandemic, every writer I know has watched their process go into the wood-chipper. I am no exception. Gone are the morning meditations. The Julia Cameron-style self-reflection. The freedom to “write till noon.”  The precious writing rituals, incantations, and every bit of flowery, artsy sh!t in which I once loved to indulge. There’s no time for that, not anymore.

We’re at war.


My sacred writing space is now:

  • Laptop in the kitchen so I can make sure my tricksy children haven’t turned off their cameras in the middle of Zoom class. 
  • In the backyard with a legal pad, occasionally shouting at the dogs so they don’t chew each other up.
  • On the couch while the kids watch a movie, or next to my wife as she enters grades.
  • Like now, early in the morning when I can’t sleep.

The idea of having a coherent, consistent process has become a distant fantasy — and yet, pages must be written. This post is a reckoning with that new reality. I was a pantser, but these new conditions have forced me to learn how to outline. I once set aside quiet hours to carefully compose scenes, but now I do it in chunks between helping my son with math, checking my daughter’s grammar packet, and listening to the comical bwah-wah of a trombone as my wife teaches band class from our bedroom.

I once treated writing like a sacred act, but now it has become something much more terrestrial.  Writing can’t be a porcelain tea cup anymore. It has to be a stainless-steel travel mug. No more comfy slippers; I need combat boots. No longer a vintage typewriter, but one of those rubber-encased laptops construction foremen tote around.

I have to adapt.

I can’t be attached.

I have to reinvent every day.

So to my fellow writers, I say this: We are all at war, and we are all scrambling to pick up an improvised weapon and throw up rescue flares and hunt for wild boar to sustain us until we reach the next village. To you I say: Let’s not be precious. Let us get to our keyboards and type while the mortars go off around us.

It’s madness. It’s chaos. Nothing works anymore. It’s a dystopia. Let’s write anyway. Whenever, however, at whatever level of quality we can. What else is there to do?


My Shiny New Writing Process

My Pre-Writing Ritual

Incantation for Writing

There’s Nothing Divine about Dissatisfaction

It’s Okay to Squirrel

Process Peek: Do You Outline?