When I was teaching full-time, I used to imagine what it was like to “be a writer.” I had some image of being like Annie Dillard and taking long walks for hours – staring quietly at weasels and tadpole pools – and then returning to my second-story office with a view of an apple orchard and the quiet brush of wind on my cheek. (It was always spring or fall in my imagination.) It sounded so idyllic, and that idyll kept me from writing because I kept thinking “when.”
The idyll is a lie. Want proof? Take a look at this article I wrote about my typical “writer’s day” for Scratch Magazine.
It’s hard to know this is a lie, though, when you’re working 40 hours and have a family and other obligations that keep you busy. It’s easy to believe the lie because, well, it’s easy to also play martyr – as I did – by saying “if I only had more time.”
Almost every day, I hear a writer say something like:
- I can’t write every day because I have young children.
- I can’t read a lot because I work full-time and have a family.
- It’s just not going to be possible for me to write until I retire.
To each of those things I say, LIES!
People with young children write all the time – maybe not for long sessions – but they do write every day. I know some of those people. People who work full-time and have families read hundreds of books a year. I know those people, too. People who work also write while they work; I AM one of those people.
As long as we as writers believe that the only way we’re going to be able to excel at what we do is if we get to ONLY WRITE our creative work, we’re not going to do it, and we’re also going to starve because, well, the writing life doesn’t pay the bills for most of us.
I work full-time – in fact, I work more than full-time – 10-12 hours a day. Of that time, maybe 2 hours is spent on my creative work. The rest of my time goes to teaching workshops, editing work for clients, managing projects for the two companies I work with, and building my own business. Yes, everyone of those things is related to writing, and I love it. But it’s work – hard work. And still, I have written over 55,000 words in less than 2 months, and I read 2-3 books a week.
So let’s just quit pretending that somehow people who write “full-time” and don’t work “regular jobs” don’t really get how hard it is to be a writer and have obligations because we do – we have all those obligations and no vacation days.
The fact of the matter is that if we want to write, we will find the time to do it. If we don’t, we’ll make excuses about work and family and other obligations.
If you want to write, write. Get up early. Stay up late. Sacrifice TV or Saturday afternoon baseball. You may have to give up something, but then, who doesn’t give up something to live our passions?
The question is, then, do you want to write? If so, how are you going to make that happen right now with your life as it is today because, well, tomorrow makes no promises?