Get up and play with my granddaughter for a little while. Drink coffee. Catch up on my email. Drink coffee. Maybe do a little laundry before getting ready for work. Drink coffee. Take a shower, throw on some clothes, jump in my truck and head off to work. Stop on the way for, you guessed it, coffee. Work till midnight, while drinking coffee. Come home and catch some Z’s, then get up and do it all over again.
This is a typical day for me. Busy, sure, but probably not a whole lot busier than your typical day, right? Let’s face it, we’re all pretty much running our butts off, aren’t we? Or at least so it seems to me.
So why did I bring it up, you ask? Because if you’re particularly sharp-eyed, you may have noticed something fairly significant. For a guy that’s supposed to be a writer, a quick scan of my typical day reveals a distinct lack of…you know…writing.
I have a confession to make, and I’ve chosen Traci’s blog to come clean. Sorry, Traci, but I just can’t keep it inside any more. I’m a little jealous. I’m jealous of those full-time authors who have consistent blocks of time set aside every day for their writing. Stephen King says he writes for three to four hours every morning before breaking for lunch and then spending his afternoons accomplishing all the other things an author needs to do: promotions, etc.
But the dirty little secret a lot of readers may not realize is that most authors, once you get past the top rung of superstars, regardless of the genre they write in, are not that different from anyone else. They spend forty hours a week at their second job—you know, the one that pays the bills—then struggle to carve out enough time to write between family time, chores, and all the other stuff that demands the attention of adults in the twenty-first century.
So, when do I write?
Well, right now I’m working on this blog post with two loads of laundry going and my granddaughter sitting next to me eating lunch while Scooby Doo solves another scary mystery on TV. I’m going to have to jump in the shower soon to prepare for my two-to-midnight shift, but if I can finish this blog post before then, I will use my break time at work to hopefully pound out a thousand or so words on the first draft of my latest manuscript.
Piece of cake. And yes, I am drinking coffee.
The thing is, I need to write every day, at least six days a week, when I’m working on a writing project. If I skip more than a day or so between writing sessions, I find that any momentum I’ve built up on the manuscript is lost, and it takes a lot of time to get back the feel of what I was trying to accomplish. Time I may not have.
As an air traffic controller by trade, I’m kind of fortunate in that my days at work are divided between stints “working position” and stints “on break.” When I’m working position, my attention must be fully on the airplanes in the sky, but when I’m on break my time is my own and I’m free to devote one hundred percent of it to my writing if I so choose. Which I do.
Most authors I know are in the same boat, more or less. If they don’t have a full-time job, they might be full-time family caregivers, which can be just as time-consuming as driving to a job every day, if not more so. The myth of the author smoking a pipe in his study while wearing a velvet smoking jacket as he contemplates the mysteries of the universe is exactly that—a myth, at least where most of the authors I know are concerned.
They are much more likely to be typing madly one-handed while holding a sleeping baby on their shoulder with the other hand (yes, I’ve done that), or pounding out a few paragraphs of dialogue while boiling spaghetti for supper and trying not to burn the sauce.
And the funny thing is, not a single one of them would have it any other way.
Sure, we would love to hit it big, write a runaway bestseller, jump up and down on Oprah’s couch, tell the boss to take a hike, hire a nanny and a housekeeper and retire to our study, where we would be surrounded by volumes upon volumes of leather-bound books, all the classics, while we wear velvet smoking jackets and contemplate the mysteries of the universe, but until that happens, we are more than happy to struggle for that thirty minutes of writing time here, that forty-five minutes of writing time there.
Because we’re doing what we love.