Thursday, October 20, 2011

Finding Your Cave

In my bio, I claim to be a reluctant writer, and I firmly believe that’s a true statement.

I’ve read more than a couple of books dealing with the writing process, and while there are many different suggestions for developing your craft, most seem to have two common suggestions: find a space to write, and write something every day. Well, I agree that for most people this is probably great advice, but sadly for me it doesn’t quite work that way.

When we moved to Lake Arrowhead, my ever-supporting wife suggested that I take the whole area on the second level of our house, previously used as a game room and make it my writing cave. I’d have a stunning view of the lake, be surrounded by inspirational books, paintings, and general nick-nacks from my past writing retreats, and therefore should have no problem penning many best sellers.

So I set up my gorgeous desk (I do love my desk: distressed wood, wrought iron, with a weathered leather writing surface) facing the lake, moved my superbly comfortable office chair into place, spent literally weeks deciding on a color for the walls (even researched color psychology on the net so I could choose one that aided in creativity), removed all the possible outside distractions, purchased an office armoire where we could keep all of life’s day-to-day minutia hidden from view (i.e. bills), then we stood back and admired my cave. It was perfect. I could almost feel my muse taking up residence in the reading chair by the window.

We moved into this house nineteen months ago and I’ve done some writing since then: finished my first full-length novel, started another new one, dug into one that I set aside a few years earlier, even wrote some poetry. Trouble is, I don’t sit down every day and write. In fact, I can easily decipher the work I’ve done on days that I did sit down and make myself write as opposed to the work I did when I felt that unconscious urge to craft letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, blah, blah, blah. (Actually, I rarely use punctuation and I barely know when a sentence should end and a new one should begin – KVS edited this.) Sadly, the urge to write doesn't come along too often, so consequently all the writing I’ve done could’ve been done in the course of a month.

Oh, and my gorgeous, inspirational, cave has never been used for writing. Nope, not even once! Although I have sat at the desk a couple of times… to catch my breath after running up the outside stairs.

I guess my point is, that it’s okay if you don’t follow conventions, and it’s okay if you don’t write every day, and yes, it’s okay if you don’t have a cave. (By the way, I have done all my writing sitting at the dining room table in a chair that long ago lost any semblance of padding that faces the kitchen instead of the lake.) I may not write every day, but I never stop thinking about writing. I do envy the people who can get words on paper on a regular basis, but I no longer beat myself up because I can’t. I just try and make the most of it when it happens.

Two of my favorite books on the writing process:
Stephen King – On Writing.
Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird.

Jon Egan


  1. Jon, you may need an editor to make your material easier to read, but you crank out some incredible stuff.

  2. No two writers work exactly the same way. Every writer has to find the formula that works for him or her. If it works for you, Jon, stick with it.

  3. Great post, Jon. You are such an inspiration to me.