Monday, July 09, 2012

Time Management

I was interviewed by a lady a while back who had aspirations to be a writer. I offered to read something of hers, and she replied that she didn't have anything new, what with work and everything. I politely let it go, but the truth is this is a bullshit statement. The truth is, this person isn't a writer and probably never will be. If you can't carve out some time to write regularly, well, you aren't going to write anything. If you don't write, you're not a writer. I'm not saying you have to write every day, though, really, if you want to build up a body of work you need to try to write on a fixed schedule. Raymond Carver said he would write on weekends when he was struggling to make ends meet -- he'd borrow a friend's office and hole up for a few hours to pound something out. What I'm saying is if you want to actually be a writer, you make it happen.

For me, it's kind of the opposite of Carver. I tend to be able to find some time during most weekdays -- maybe a lunch break, whatever -- whereas weekends and holidays are a struggle because I'd like to actually see my wife and daughter from time to time, though I still tend to write every day. I work as a teacher and college counselor, which means I'm very busy. I also have a baby. And yet, I manage to write SOMETHING just about every day, usually a thousand words. And I hear other folks talk about how much more they get done.

But my point isn't to scold folks for not writing every day, just the opposite. If it's a struggle for you to write regularly, don't bother. Give up the pipe dream. You're not a writer and you most likely never will be. Doesn't that make life easier? Now, you can watch TV or play video games or go out with your friends and not feel guilty. You're welcome.

Because the reality is writing isn't a chore. If you're a writer -- truly a writer -- it isn't a question of banging away at the keyboard as though you're going to the gym. It's the exact opposite. Writing is what you'd rather be doing when everything else gets in the way. And I don't mean that in a euphemistic way. Writing is a compulsion. When I don't write for a day or two, I feel it, physically. I get cranky. I feel stressed. I get headaches. But all I have to do is write, and I feel better. It's really most analogous to an addiction.

Only slightly less annoying (and frankly sad) is the complaint that "I don't have a good writing space." A writer can write anywhere. I've written locked in the bathroom at my in-laws. I've written on airplanes. I've written while children scream and play in the next room. I've written while my students worked on an assignment. I've written while driving (I usually pull over, but I can't always). Obviously, I'd prefer to write in a quiet room with a cup of tea, sitting in a comfortable chair, etc., and many times, I do just that, but I will also pound out a thousand words while I'm in my office waiting for a student to come to a meeting, or whenever I have some free time. I'm writing this while my wife puts our daughter to bed. My daughter is screaming and fussing because she wants to play, and I'm typing away.

As Billy Crystal's character said in Throw Mamma from the Train, "A writer writes. Always." So please, stop blogging about how you don't have time to blog. Stop writing about how you don't have time to write. Either write or don't. But don't try to guilt yourself into it. That's not how it works.


Some guy said...

All true. I remember listening to Toni Morrison talk about the same problems she faced in writing her earlier novels as a mother--no time, no space to write, constantly squeezing in writing when she could, where she could.

CLBledsoe said...

Absolutely. I forget who it was -- a female poet talked about writing poems in her head during the day and finally being able to write them down in the evening when the kids went to bed.