with Meaghan Strimas
HLR: How do you schedule time to write?
EM: When I was working full-time, I did all my writing late in the evening – I rarely wrote a word before midnight. I was like the Gremlins of children's writing. In April, I left my job at Coach House Books and started freelancing and working part-time. First thing I did, I started a writing schedule worthy of a boot camp. I woke up at a decent hour, walked to the Toronto Reference Library, and wrote in my little notebook from 9:30 to 2:30 every day without fail. But within a month, my strict regimen had degenerated. I reverted to a life of a depraved night owl, toiling away on all my other work during the day, only taking time to work on my book during the wee hours of the night.
HLR: What obstacles (real and imagined) make it a challenge for you to find time to write, and how have you dealt with them?
EM: The only real obstacle is myself and my puritanical sensibilities. I live a very save-the-dessert-for-last kind of life, and in my mind, writing and working on my own projects is the dessert. (Which, if you think about it, is a pretty sad dessert.) I have a real tendency to do all the other possible work I need to do before I devote even a second to my own writing. (This is part of the reason I'm often writing at three in the morning.) When I was publicist at Coach House, there was so much other important work to do – books to publicize, launches to organize and attend – I found it difficult to find any time to write at all. But now that I've left, I realize it wasn't just the publicist job. Even without a full-time employer, the writing always comes last: after my work at Book City, after any of my freelance work, after the boards and other things I volunteer for. I thought I'd dealt with this obstacle by making the leap from full-time publishing work to freelancing, but as I found, they didn't really help. The main way I deal with this obstacle now is by staying up later and later and sleeping less and less. It's a particularly bad coping mechanism.
HLR: Do you find you work better when your schedule is clear, or when you are pressed to find time?
EM: I enjoy having other responsibilities, as I work best when I have discrete blocks of free time and other endeavours to pivot around. A completely free day is more terrifying than a completely blank page. I'd rather have at least one appointment or non-writing task to complete in any given day. Also, my inner John Winthrop (or some other famous Puritan) would be outraged if I had a completely free day to devote just to writing. He wouldn't let that stand. I'd end up coming up with other important tasks to do for someone else. It happens all the time. All of a sudden, I'll decide I need to draw a CanLit version of Mount Rushmore, just so I have an assignment that's not writing. As a result, I've found that an hour or two of drawing can really help with my writing. Drawing is like a fiction lubricant.
Evan Munday is the author and illustrator of the Silver Birch-nominated series of novels for young adults, The Dead Kid Detective Agency (ECW Press). He works as a bookseller and does various freelance publishing jobs in Toronto.