07/22/2010 06:17 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Making of a Novel: Do You Write Every Day?

An interviewer asked me this question last week -- "Do you write every day?" and I said, without hesitation, "Yes." That was a lie.

I don't put words on the page every day. I don't open the files containing my outlines and drafts and research every day. I have a day job -- I'm a writing teacher and coach. And I have a family -- one girl about to start high school, the other about to start college, and husband. And I sometimes get migraines that prevent me from sitting in front of a computer, or even looking at a piece of paper. So there are, in fact, many days when I don't put words on a page.

What I meant when I said "Yes," was that when I am in the midst of working on a story, as I am now, I think about it every day. I search the newspaper and the radio and the conversation of strangers for clues and tidbits and anecdotes I can use. I think about what I will write when I next sit down to write, and I think about how my story will end, and what my characters will do in the middle and who their friends will be and what they'll have for dinner. I can't, in fact, get the story out of my head -- and I think of that as writing.

When I do sit down to write, the words tend to come out in a rush. I ignore the phone and the carpool pick up time and the piles of laundry that threaten to take over the house. Nothing will distract me, or pull me away from my work, and I happily crank out the pages. I almost never sit in front of a blank page and just stare, because when I sit down to write, I'm ready.

I admire the habits of writers who sit at their desk for the same time each day, and write a fixed number of words or pages. It would be nice, I think, to have that kind of discipline. But I don't have it. And I have found that I don't need it, either.

And in just in case you were wondering? Not going to write today....