“Mommy, Suzie hit me!”
“C’mon, Mary, you can work on your book after the kids go to bed. This spring dress sale only lasts eight hours!”
“Honey, can you bring me a beer? I don’t wanna miss this next play.”
You know the mentality: Writers don’t work. They play on the computer all day while the laundry piles up and the kids create art masterpieces in the dust on the end table.
We’ve talked about scheduling, about setting aside time to write, about keeping the creative juices flowing—but the reality is that these things are a lot more difficult than they sound.
In the fantasy world of the writer, we spew out an endless flow of literary magnificence from 8 to 5, stopping only long enough to fill another cup from the coffeemaker that’s perpetually full and fragrant, grab a scrumptious sandwich that our mate prepared and refrigerated before he left for work, and shoot a quick glance into the kids’ spotless rooms that were tidied before they went to school. The phone doesn’t ring unless it’s our agent calling to tell us that she’s placed yet another of our manuscripts with a New York house, or it’s our accountant to report that the latest royalty check has arrived—and it’s thousands more than we expected. Yeah, right.
Here’s the reality: The school nurse calls; Johnny’s fever’s 104. Jenny needs a ride to soccer practice, and she’s volunteered Mom to pick up five teammates on the way. Of course, they need a ride home, too, and expect Mom to stay and cheer them to victory. The hubby phones, and buddies from work are coming by for beer and snacks while they watch the game. It’s a juggling act, and somebody just added six extra balls to the ones we must keep in the air. How do we find time to fit writing into our crazy schedules?
When my younger children and disabled husband lived at home and the teenagers and I cleaned houses to keep a roof over our heads and bread and margarine (couldn’t afford butter) on the table, I didn’t find that time. Since then—with perfect 20/20 hindsight—I’ve realized that my writing skills might have been put to practical use in a number of jobs, which would have set an example for my youngest son, who, even then, was a very talented songwriter. (A piece written in four parts that he composed at age 15 for a high school choir assignment was recorded for him by the Seattle Chamber Choir.) Now in his mid-forties, he’s working on his first album, which could have been out two decades or more ago. Would it have been? I’ll never know. But he learned a great work ethic while he stifled his talent. What’s the point?
Yesterday’s gone. Tomorrow’s an unknown. We have today to use to the best of our ability. If you can buy out just a few minutes to write or even make notes on what you want to write, it will give you the joy of expression, which also is put on hold when you let everything else crowd out those creative moments. Could you manage ten minutes while the baby’s napping? How about slipping out of bed fifteen minutes earlier or jotting a few notes on a pad while you eat lunch? Whatever your challenges, can you spend a few moments to let the writer in you blossom? Even if you must put handwritten notes in a paper file folder to retrieve at some later time, you will be amazed in the future at your creativity under duress. Take it from someone who’s been there—this is important for you.
The baby’s still sleeping, and the school bus won’t bring the other children home for half an hour. You sit down at the computer and open the file that contains your most recent endeavor. With your scribbled notes beside you, you immerse yourself in the world you’ve created and mingle lovingly with your characters.
A sudden sound startles you. The front door opens and closes. A familiar voice calls out.
“Honey, I got off work early and I’m starving. What’s for dinner?”
How do you nurture the writer within when your life screams "no way"?
Retired editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing. With several manuscripts started over the years and then shelved, she's determined to finish each one of them within the next two or three years. Meanwhile, she may take on an occasional editing job or mentor a writer who seeks voice, style, and effectiveness of expression. Visit Linda's website to learn more about her mentoring team. http://www.denvereditor.com.