Quote of the Week

What you want to do is write the best book you can write. There is no timeline to that. Do the best you can do with what you have. Get rid of the timeline.—Gail Tsukiyama

Gail Tsukiyama. Photo from “Get Lit” interview at the Walnut Creek Public Library, 2012.

Gail Tsukiyama. Photo from “Get Lit” interview at the Walnut Creek Public Library, 2012.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of hearing Gail Tsukiyama, award-winning author of seven novels, in conversation with the legendary Dorothy Allison at an intimate Hedgebrook event in San Francisco. This quote is one of the many things Gail said that night that resonated. She was responding to a question from a woman who wanted to know what kind of timeline she should have for her work in progress, which seemed to her to be taking longer than it should, but that was difficult to complete because she works full-time and is a mom.

Many women in the room nodded at the question and at the response. Dorothy agreed with Gail: Forget the timeline.

This advice might be hard to hear during National Novel Writing Month, but it’s also comforting, because it’s so easy to impose a timeline on creative work, and so hard to sync one’s expectations about the speed of external progress with the meandering rhythm of one’s internal creative process.

I’ll say more about Gail and Dorothy’s conversation in my Wednesday post. In the meantime, if you’re writing a novel or book-length work, these two videos offer an inside glimpse into Gail’s approach to writing.

In this May, 23, 2008 talk at the San Francisco Public Library, Gail describes how she approached writing her second novel, The Samurai’s Garden, which she calls “my zen book … the book that taught me how to write.” In fact, she did write the second part of this novel in a month, which is not her usual practice, but she had a deadline. So if you’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo and you can take a break from your work, you might find this talk especially interesting.

She talks for 25 minutes about her writing process, then reads for five minutes from The Samurai’s Garden, then answers questions from her audience for about half an hour.

In this 2012 “Get Lit” interview with Peter Crooks at the Walnut Creek Public Library, Gail Tsukiyama discusses her novel The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, her influences, and her writing process. (26 minutes, 49 seconds)

See more quotes about writing here.