with Meaghan Strimas
HLR: How do you schedule time to write?
SR: My days are so unpredictable, given the busy nature of my freelance editing work, that I don’t actually have regularly scheduled writing time. I wish I could be one of those writers who gets up at 6 a.m. and writes till 10 a.m. every day, but it’s unrealistic for me. Creatively, I thrive on chaos. I sometimes do write early in the morning, but just as often late at night. Having moved from Toronto to a small town (Cobourg, Ontario) means I no longer have subway and bus time, which I used to take advantage of to write. But I find time: sometimes I write only for a few minutes, sometimes for a couple of hours. I’m amazed at how much writing I get done without having a schedule.
HLR: What obstacles (real and imagined) make it a challenge for you to find time to write, and how have you dealt with them?
SR: Aside from my freelance work, I’m a news junkie, so I’m checking various news sources online several times a day. I’m relieved Rob Ford is no longer mayor of Toronto: that’ll save me a lot of time. Beyond all that, I’m always involved in various kinds of literary community events and practices: a weekly emailing of Toronto literary events; Meet the Presses, a literary-event collective; mentoring and organizing. Finally, I tend to avoid my writing projects by creating new writing projects to distract myself. But I never abandon the old ones, so they just keep piling up!
HLR: Do you find you work better when your schedule is clear, or when you are pressed to find time?
SR: The sad truth is — and I suspect it’s the case with many writers — I often write most when I have the least time to write. But my schedule hasn’t been clear for years, so I can’t really answer this with any certainty. I tend to write out of desperation or guilt. I don’t like the act of writing much, but I really like having written. And now, at fifty-five, and with about thirteen book projects on the go, I feel like it’s a race against time: there’s the desperation.
Stuart Ross published his first literary pamphlet on the photocopier in his dad’s office one night in 1979. Through the 1980s, he stood on Toronto’s Yonge Street wearing signs like “Writer Going To Hell,” selling over 7,000 chapbooks. He is the author of 14 books of fiction, poetry, essays, and, most recently, Our Days in Vaudeville, collaborations with 29 other Canadian poets. He is a freelance editor, and he has his own imprint at Toronto’s Mansfield Press. Stuart is a member of the improvisational noise trio Donkey Lopez. He lives in Cobourg, Ontario, and blogs at bloggamooga.blogspot.ca