The Minimalist Writer
The minimalist lifestyle–scaling back nearly everything to just the essentials–has enabled me to pursue writing, and in particular to devote the past year and some months to learning the craft of writing a novel. One doesn’t have to just write about minimalism to be a minimalist writer, or a minimalist anything else.
At the Art Institute of Chicago
A crucial part of learning to write a novel is learning to be a novelist, something that a lot of people aren’t aware of. Being a novelist is a mindset, and I will go so far as to say it is a lifestyle, because it has required rearranging priorities to put writing and writing-related time at the top of the list nearly every day. It also meant learning to compartmentalize unavoidable distractions, like grocery shopping, in order to be able to pick up where I left off at the computer. Having a minimalist lifestyle in place has made this so much easier.
You can’t blame life for doing what life does, which is a universally-shared sentiment among minimalists. Instead, by having your own needs streamlined, you leave yourself less vulnerable to being thrown off track by whatever life does. Chief among those needs is sustainable income. Fewer expenses, smaller expenses, mean being able to get by on less income. A smaller house helps by being easier to maintain, as does an uncluttered house. Judiciously selected activities give back more than they take; here I think of all the novels I could have written in my life if I hadn’t spent so many, many hours in recreational shopping and then maintaining and reorganizing all the stuff I bought. Instead, ventures to Chicago or Lake Michigan or visiting with friends and family are actually welcome, grounding me to the real world so that I don’t get lost in the fictional world inside my head and computer screen.
Perhaps I have a keen awareness of this process because it’s meant staying focused on one single project for longer than I’ve sustained for any other in my entire life. There was no getting bored with it all and wandering off to do something else. It remained fresh, from the day I set my mind to do it, to the present, where the second draft (108,000 words!) is with my beta readers. I’m even looking forward to starting the final draft in a week’s time. If you want to read the first two chapters as they currently stand, I’ve got them up on the Novel Excerpt page.
“Write what you love” is another bit of good advice, and I’ve loved mysteries all my life, particularly traditional and cozy mysteries. The fact that I like knitting, gardening, cats, and cooking is probably a giveaway, as an awful lot of mystery writers and readers seem to share my affliction. But I do love character-driven plots, studies in motivation, and stories of interwoven lives, all told from a distinctly philosophical point of view, and never formulaic. Readers of this blog may find similarities in my fiction. Certainly I welcome feedback, and if you’d like to be on the current team of readers or want to get on the list for an Advance Review Copy when its ready, just let me know.
Publishing fiction these days means the author has to do the marketing, whether or not one goes with a traditional publisher. I’m curious about how you learn about new books and new authors. Do you have a favorite website or newsfeed, or some form of social media like a Facebook or Google+ group? I’m totally open to suggestions and recommendations on this, or other forms of outreach that are effective, but not abrasive.
Happy New Year! (Hey, my outdoor holiday lights are still up! Priorities, right?)