I wish I had time to write

“If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you” – Henry Rollins

I had someone say that they wished they were like me, self-employed, so they would have time to write a novel.

Now, I agree that in many ways I am not as time-strapped as some.  I have a child, but that child is man-sized and as capable of doing anything that needs doing around the house as I am up to and including shopping for food or cooking.  I have a husband who also believes in streamlining household routine so that it doesn’t interfere with his projects, either.  I am self-employed, but it doesn’t exactly give me the extra time to work on stuff for which I have no direct client or market.  I mean, bills do need to get paid, and to date I’ve earned enough writing fiction to buy one pizza.  But, the last time I wrote a novel, I had a full-time job in an office I had to commute to.

More than that?  I know for a fact my current favorite writer (she’s won Hugos, gotten on best-seller lists and all that smack) has a “real job” in an office that she has to commute to.  Chances are good that many of your favorite writers have “real jobs”, too.  At the midlist level, writing doesn’t pay all that well, especially if you’re worried about having health insurance.

But it’s more than that.  There was a time when I had all day, really, no-kidding, the whole day to write.  I often didn’t.  I balanced the checkbook (this was before we had an internet connection), I did origami (my husband could always tell a bad writing day because he’d have to wade through origami figures to get to my desk to say hello), and oh my word the house was never so clean as when I just didn’t feel like writing (this is still true.  I use cleaning house as a procrastination method more often than I like to admit).

Later on we had a kid, and after that, the household living situation changed so that I never had all of any day to do anything, ever.

It was then I learned that a certain level of “now or never” was a great boost to productivity for me.  I needed to schedule time.  I needed to threaten the household that I was writing and if they disturbed me for anything less than blood or fire during that scheduled time, the fangs were going to come out.

I learned to take myself, my goals and my writing a little more seriously.  I could not make my household respect my writing time if I, myself, did not respect my writing time.

I learned not to be such a damned special snowflake artiste about writing.  During my origami period, I had to have my perfect little routine before I could write.  I would arise, make myself a mug of espresso, turn on my writin’ music on the CD changer, and go to the computer (an Apple IIe at the time) and write in perfect, blissful solitude.  A knock on the door would throw me.  If my husband had a day off for some reason and spoke to me before I got to the computer, it would throw me.  Knowing I had an appointment in the afternoon would throw me.

You get the point.  I permitted the situation to be far too fragile to bloody well get anything done.

Oh sure, I still like to have a mug of something hot when I write.  I still hate it if someone tries to talk to me while I’m writing.  I like to have my writin’ music when I’m working.  But I can write on a plane, or on a train.  I can write in the morning when I first get up, or in the evening before I go to bed.  I’ve trained myself that routines and locations to create the mood are so much frippery.  As Gurney Halleck would say, “Mood is for cattle or making love…”  Writing is work time.

It doesn’t even need to be a lot of time.  I don’t write for hours without getting up.  For the most part, I write in 20 minute chunks in hyperfocus, get up, wander around, check my email, lather, rinse repeat until I’ve made my daily word count.  While I have more time than some, 20 minutes a day of hyperfocus writing still gets stuff done.  Maybe not as quickly as one would like, but if the writing is the important part, at least you spend a chunk of time really practicing your art.

‘Course, writing is no more compulsory than knitting or weightlifting.  If it’s not really important to you, it isn’t.  But if it is respect that and give yourself at least a little time even to write something utterly awful.  Hey, if musicians are allowed to be crap sometimes when practicing, so re writers!