“All you have to do is live.” That’s a quote by David Sedaris, one of my favorite authors. He was talking about being able to find material to write about. I happen to love his writing style and he inspires me to no end. He and I are a lot alike in that we write about our families, our lives and about things that happen to us or occur to us.
I also write for “Bird Talk” Magazine. When I write straight features for Bird Talk, it’s not so much about my life or my family of birds and my dog, but I do have the luxury of a monthly column I write that is about them. I can write pretty much anything I want in my column: “Memo to Parker and Pepper.” People read it, they like it, and it’s best not to think too hard about it.
The features I write for BT are another plate of potatoes, however. And so are all of the other things I write for them: Their Quizzes and the Bird Species Profiles on their website have contributions to them that I supplied. These are all challenging projects. Why? Because I can’t make anything up and I have to adhere to a certain format. And it actually takes a certain amount of preparation and a ton of research before I get so much as the title written. These things usually require shopping around for information and it also involves getting on the damned phone and talking to people and emailing people, peppering them with questions. Usually when I’m in the middle of doing a bunch of research, things get a little crazy. I go off the deep end. I require a lot of Sashimi. And sake. And sleep.
I tend to get distracted from the rest of my life when I’m working on a big project. My Condo goes to hell, my laundry doesn’t get done, and I forget to take the dog out. I wake up early and try and get a couple of hours of research in before I get the birds up, because I know that after I get them up it’s interruptions from hell for a lot of the day. When I’m working on a big project, the T.V. never goes on. Not because I can’t write with it on, but I simply never think to turn it on. I kind of go into this weird state of mind and turn off and tune out everything else. I sit down to write and do research and I look up and all of a sudden six hours of passed. And I never noticed!
I’m a disciplined writer in that when I begin a project, I write like hell until I’m done. For instance, I sat down and ground out a year’s worth of weekly quizzes in about two weeks. That’s fifty-two quizzes. Fifty-two! Of course, I was writing for about nine hours a day to get them done. I look at them now as they pop up weekly on the Bird Channel website and I honestly don’t remember writing some of them.
I don’t like deadlines:
They loom ahead of me like this huge, brick wall. It probably has something to do with the fact that working for an Airline for twenty-three years makes me a little paranoid about being late for anything. Signing in late or missing a trip entirely is like being charged with a huge crime. They just don’t like it. Consequently, it’s been engrained in my head regarding my writing: “If it’s not two weeks early, it’s late.”
I must say my editor sure as hell likes it that way…
So I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of writing lately. And of course I’ve been flying to Ecuador on a regular basis, can’t forget that! I’ve been concerned about trying to keep up with this blog for several reasons. First of all, it’s purely creative and it’s fun to do. I like it. I’d hate to think of what life would be like without it. But with all of the writing, it tends to get difficult to pull it all together and keep up with it. But I’m sure as hell am trying. And I just have to remember what David Sedaris said about coming up with a subject for a writing project: “All you have to do is live.” Now that’s something I already do everyday. And if I simply remember to look around a little bit, I’ll always have something to write about.
Patricia Sund is a Free-Lance Writer residing in Florida with her three African Greys. She has been published in About.com, Bird Talk Magazine, Birds USA, In Your Flock Magazine, Good Bird Magazine as well as numerous websites and newsletters. She is currently doing research for a book titled "Parrot Nation".