Monday, May 16, 2011


Downtime. A standard question on author interviews is "What do you do when you're not writing?" I find it interesting that few writers actually answer the question. Some joke around or snort and point out there isn't any non-writing time, but most don't admit to doing anything except writing.

That can't be right. If all authors did was write, there would be no shortage of books. Really.

They may be sitting in front of a computer. They may even be typing. But I'm pretty sure that writing isn't what is happening. While necessary to the furthering of careers (though that can't exactly be true because Mark Twain didn't have facebook, twitter, or e-mail) most hours spent in front of the computer are for promo--not writing.

Entertaining as facebook or twitter might be, they aren't very good for the heart or body. I have to confess crocheting and calligraphy aren't either. So what do I do when I'm not writing?

The spousal unit and I go shopping. Not "buy the store out" shopping. It's mostly window shopping. We park waaaaaay out at the end of the parking lot, walk to the store, and then walk around and around and around inside the store. When we're tired, we pick up one or two items we need and then we walk back out to the end of the parking lot.

We also play Wii bowling. Three or four games at lunch time. and another three or four at dinner time. Aside from the standing aspect, competition is good for the soul. And someday I might even be able to beat my grandchildren when we go for a visit. It's soooo pitiful when your four-year-old great grandson can beat you at bowling.
Laundry and dishes are good to keep the old ticker beating. Walking around the parking lot is good. Swimming is good. All of those are within my physical capabilities.

But after all that exciting exercise, I need something calming and soothing. Something to help me relax. My chosen activity is reading. From things other authors have posted on facebook and twitter and even shared with me personally, I don't think writers read enough. 

The power of the written word isn't only for readers--those nebulous people out there that read our books. It's important for us, the writers, to be readers, too. That's how we refresh our souls and minds. Reading engages our imagination.

Everyday I set aside thirty minutes to read about something new. Over the weekend I learned about the history of the saddle horn and how to use a tinderbox. Did you know there really is such a thing as a tinderbox? I didn't. I've read books that have described the use of such an item, but the writers never actually referred to it with that name.

And saddle horns weren't part of the western saddle until the 1830's. English saddles don't have a saddle horn. So my book--set in 1829--should not have saddles with saddle horns. I read several articles about how saddles are made and all about the history of saddles. I was amazed at the work involved. Did you know a saddle should be fitted to a specific horse? I didn't know that either.

I also read several articles on women's rights, two pieces on poisons, and another long article on quilting. (Just in passing, there's no safe way to induce vomiting and if you're poisoned, throwing up might not be the best way to go.) As I read, story ideas kept pinging my brain. Ping, ping, ping...

The other kind of reading I like to do is the news from small towns. A lot of small town newspapers are on the internet now. When you read those you get a renewed sense of what motivates people--what makes us run. Too often big city stories are buried under all the crime and violence. But small town stories about a son or daughter returning from college or military service, weddings, funerals, and that proud picture from the prom...those are the everyday stories of life.

Finally, I read books. You know, longer stories that take more than ten minutes to scan. I read all genres--except horror--because I just can't wrap my mind around that. I read authors I admire. Some I read because I love their way with words. Others I read because of the emotions they evoke. And some I read because they make me laugh. Whatever the reason, I read for refreshment. 

That's my downtime. What about you?



  1. There's really 4 main things I do when I'm not working on a WIP:

    1) I write song lyrics. I'm one of those acoustic singer/songwriter types, so sometimes writing in a different medium is refreshing.

    2) I read. A lot. Usually books whose characters, genre, or something matches what I'm writing.

    3) I hang out with friends and people watch. The more I hang around people, the more insight I get for my WIPs.

    4) Watch television: the lazy way to get my story fix.

    <3 Gina Blechman

  2. I watched something last night on TV about how to thatch a roof - quite fascinating

  3. Well, I guess my days at work could be considered 'downtime' from writing? hehe. But at home if I'm not writing, I'm either watching a DVD or reading. Sometimes drawing/painting.

  4. My 'downtime' has been spent watching my DVR'd shows; reading; or singing karaoke once a month. And now with summer approaching, I'll be at the pool with my youngest.