When Do You Write? PATRICK ROSS

Patrick Ross’ inspirational blog, The Artist’s Road, is frequently named one of the best websites for writers. Spend a few minutes reading through his posts, and you’ll see why.

Most writing blogs focus on the far more headache-inducing, business side of writing– how to get an agent, how to get published, how to write a good query letter, how to self-publish, etc. I read these blogs so I can keep up with what’s happening in the industry. But they make me feel tense and inadequate, and after reading them, I find it difficult to focus on my work-in-progress.

But when I arrive at Patrick’s blog, I check my desperation at the door.

Patrick encourages writers to take a step back from the day-to-day grind of word counts and spell checks, and view writing as a journey– a life choice that one actively makes a priority. When I read his posts, I imagine the two of us sitting across from one another at a coffee shop, sipping tea, discussing how we connect with our inner muse. Patrick’s writing about writing is a comforting conversation about the source of our artistry, not the complications of a writing career. Through his choice to live an “art-committed life,” I have found a sort of writing guru in Patrick. Perhaps you will, too.

When Do You Write, Patrick?

I give my muse an hour each day before dawn for first-draft writing. I wake up, leave sleeping my wife and two children, head downstairs to the kitchen, pour a cup of coffee (the pot is already brewed thanks to Mr. Coffee’s programmable timer), descend another flight of stairs to my computer, and start typing.

The words come easily, even in my half-awake state. In part, this is due to the fact that as I’ve grown older, I find myself needing less sleep. But this is also because I often program my subconscious to start the writing process before I fall asleep. This little trick I’ve developed over the years means that when I sit down at that blank Microsoft Word screen at the start of my day, I do not feel I am generating from nothing; rather, it feels a bit like taking dictation. At some point I find my rhythm, and then my muse and I press on, truly generating original writing.

I recently started a full-time job that I love, but that requires long days with no window to actually work on any personal writing. As a freelancer, I would carve out small windows during the day to perform edits. That is no longer an option. But I cannot underestimate the importance of editing for me; my initial drafts are absurdly long and logically incongruous. Any creative writing project I undertake must undergo four or five or more rigorous edits, and I know the editing is complete when the work is half the length with twice the clarity.

I must generate new prose each morning; I cherish the silence, and know I must write a little each day to keep those muscles limber. So with not being able to edit during the day, and not being willing to surrender my pre-dawn hours to editing, I am finding that process is a late night activity. It’s a little surprising to me that I am able to do it. I have generally thought of myself as mentally and creatively spent after seven o’clock at night. But when you love what you do—and I love to produce finished creative writing, even if I don’t always love the writing process—I find the motivation to focus on the prose in front of me and slash those pages with my pen.

There are sacrifices, things that otherwise might be on the calendar that get pushed aside. I have yet to watch a 2012 NBA playoff game in its entirety, for example, but then again my Phoenix Suns didn’t make it this year, so that sacrifice is more easily made. But my choices in what I do and what I don’t are made voluntarily. Those are always the easiest choices to live with.

Bio:  Patrick Ross is a professional storyteller. He works in Washington, D.C., as a communications official in the Obama Administration, and still finds time to pursue an MFA in Writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, write the award-winning Artist’s Road blog, and teach a course on creative blogging at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. His wife and teenage son and daughter are very patient with his various pursuits, and tolerant of his dorky sense of humor.

Patrick’s first paid writing was a contest-winning poem that earned him $25 when he was seventeen; other than some goofy haikus, he has not written another poem since. Most of his professional career has been as an award-winning journalist, but in the last year he has turned his attention to  creative nonfiction. He has had several personal essays published, and is writing a travel memoir about his cross-country U.S. road trip in which he interviewed several dozen artists and produced short documentary films about them and their art.

He enjoys antique maps, fine cigars, and bacon.

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Want more WHEN DO YOU WRITE? Meet back here this Thursday! For past guest writers, check here.

19 thoughts on “When Do You Write? PATRICK ROSS

  1. Pingback: When Do I Write? « The Artist's Road

  2. I’m the early morning writer also. I get up at 4:30 a.m. and spend time jotting down ideas, thoughts, ramblings. I follow up with a Bible study/devotion and then slip into work clothes for my full time job. I often use my lunch break in the car writing and then any other space of time available. It’s a constant challenge but I am meticulous about having a computer or pencil and paper constantly with me just in case I get inspired.

  3. Wow, cmdale. I admire your devotion to writing. I tried during the early-morning writing for a while, but I find, given the choice, I’m far better off writing late at night. Best of luck to you and your writing! And thanks for stopping by.

  4. Thanks for hosting Patrick at your blog, Anjali. You did a wonderful job of summarizing why his blog is so fabulous; I feel the same way about it. And thanks, Patrick, for sharing a little bit about your writing process. Oh, how I wish I was a morning person and could rise early to write. But it takes me a few hours for my brain to kick in. So my early mornings are spent pruning my “to do” list, checking email, paying bills. By 10:00 a.m. or so, I’ve finally cleared the cobwebs and clutter from my mind and I’m ready to write.

  5. Patrick, congratulations on your new job. Your bio at the Patent and Trademark Office website is very impressive. It’s wonderful how you can combine your love of being a morning person with that special writing time before everyone else wakes up. I agree it’s a deliberate choice in how we spend our time and writers sometimes have to choose between a fun, temporary pleasure and spending time immersed in our craft. Looks like you’ve got it all worked out even with the full-time job (I’m amazed you still have time for your MFA! kudos to you on that one) and of course you know I’m still looking forward to being your first book customer when the time comes.

  6. Thank you, Jessica, for stopping by! I’m the say as you, Jessica. My mornings are spent doing my to-do list and getting kids ready and off to school. But by mid-morning, I’m ready to go!

  7. Thanks, Milli, for coming by here. I’ll be one of the first in line for Patrick’s book, too!

  8. It’s a bit ironic to me, morning that is, in so far as I don’t even begin to write until the early evening hours up to and including the 3am mark, visible of course on my diabolical computer screen clock. Morning hours? Well, my main question here is what are they? Apple juice by 10am (if I’m lucky to be up by then), lunch by noon (sometimes), day to day functioning until 5pm (always), followed by dinner and a small desert (it’s the dark chocolate!). Afterwards, the cobwebs are clear and all is silent in my thoughts once again. Plenty silent to hear and to create the words and the music rolling around in that somewhat defined grey matter situated between my two outer ears. In the quiet of the night is when I finally can be internal enough to hear the workings of my inner mind.

    Congratulations on your new position and great work here too, Patrick! Thanks for taking the early morning hours to write and to share. Godspeed!

  9. StringTunes, I am also more naturally a night writer. If I didn’t have young kids, I would like start at around 9 PM and write until 3 AM. I find that when I’m having trouble with a scene or working out some other issue with my novel, the answer will almost always come to me in the middle of the night.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. Such a great post- yes, the silence- that is why I like either staying up very late when the house is totally quiet- or getting up super early.

    Thanks for introducing Patrick to us Anjali!!

  11. Your welcome, Connie! I hope you will check out his blog. It’s among my favorites!

  12. I thought I was in the wrong place at first – love the new look!

    I had not read Patrick’s blog before, so I’m looking forward to some inspiration. I often find myself writing in the early morning hours, but I arrive there in the opposite direction – I start writing at midnight and just keep going until I collapse and sleep through half the day.

  13. I like your style, Jocelyn.

    My brother is experimenting with my blog look. After years of using the wordpress standard templates, I’m ready to try something different!

  14. Ah! the “forced so you have to write in the morning trick”! 🙂 Children and other responsibilities do indeed cause things to occur at alternative times which othewise would never happen at all or certainly at different times than the self would wish for.

    Still, writing, morning, noon or night is the act of a creative genius at work. Just think of it. How many letters are there in the alphabet? How many words in the English language? How many of them sound alike but have have totally different meanings? How many rules are there for grammer, spelling and usage? It takes shear genius to compose something that has never been composed before, doesn’t it?

    Maybe I’m wrong but ask your friend or neighbor to write a short story or a novel and you will see exactly the need for the ability to exercise creative genius! Glad that writing is one of your outlets. Keep up the good work!

  15. You, too, StringTunes! Best of luck to your writing endeavors, no matter what time it happens!

  16. Anjali, thank you so much for hosting me on your excellent blog. And further, let me say how touched I am by your beautiful opening, and by the kind words you’ve shared in the comments. I’m honored to be a part of this series, and am enjoying the conversation the post has sparked. It has me thinking of doing a post on the notion of morning creatives vs. night creatives. I was a night creative in my 20s, but the professional grind forced me to evolve.

  17. @cmdale My goodness, 4:30 am? You beat even me for early rising! Kudos for your discipline.

    @Jessica I’m so happy to see your comment here! It sounds like you have a good system, clearing the cobwebs and then writing. For me, I need to jump into writing before those cobwebs become visible to my conscious mind. The important thing is, you have a rhythm, and it works.

    @Milli I’m going to have to send you a copy of the travel memoir before it’s published, because you knew my story should be a book before I fully realized it, as one of my first blog readers! I do my best to find the balance of work and creativity, but it will be an ongoing process.

    @StringTunes Great to hear from you again! Thanks for the congratulations on the job. I’m just guessing here, but I think most songwriters have a schedule like yours, late nights rather than early mornings.

    @Connie It’s all about the silence, isn’t it!

    @jocelynrish Oh my, an all-night writer! Yes, I find myself thinking sometimes that I am getting up around the same time people much younger than me are staggering home from the clubs. Your late nights are more productive than theirs, though!

  18. Pingback: Facelift « The Official Website of Anjali Enjeti

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