The biggest challenge of my life as a writer is making time to sit at my desk. The act of getting from my kitchen to my desk can sometimes take hours, days, months. A list of the things that get in the way of writing:
- No clean underwear–need to do laundry.
- No milk in the fridge (kids can’t have rice & hot dogs & carrots for dinner again)–need to go to the grocery store.
- Kids are home. (No explanation required.)
- Dog is going crazy from being stuck inside all day–need to take him for a walk.
- New carpet & painting on first floor of house last week–need to empty out & prepare three rooms. (See photographic evidence.)
- Kids need new shirts for their upcoming play and new shoes for school–need to go shopping.
- Kitchen is so unkept that fruit flies have begun appearing–need to clean the kitchen.
- My daughter finds a starving, listless stray kitten–need to race to the vet.
- Friend tells me she hasn’t seen me in too long–need to get together.
- Friends and in-laws coming for dinner–need to shop and cook.
- Family gathering requires me to fly across the country for four days– bon voyage.
- My daughters beg me to volunteer in their classrooms– off to school .
- Soccer practice & soccer games– find the cleats & shin guards, fill the water bottle, get in the car. Go.
I could write pages full of all of those fragments that steal time from the writing desk. For me, the joy of writing far outweighs the pain of not writing. But my life consistently pulls me away from that joy. Of the list above, what could I cut out? Should I not clean the kitchen and let a swarm of bugs invade? Should I make my kids wear their underwear inside out? Should I ignore my friends? Should I let my dog be unwalked and annoyed? (Confession: the poor dog is indeed often unwalked and annoyed.)
A good friend of mine who has had her second novel published tells me that she just doesn’t get together with friends very regularly. She’s made that choice. Her kids are grown, and she says that she didn’t get to serious writing until they were in school. Now, she spends hours upon hours writing. Nothing else. Maybe a walk here and there. No pets, no kids at home, very few distractions. The fact is that my children are still young (6 and 9), and they still need me and want me around. I will always choose them first. That’s what this is all about, I suppose. Choices. And simplifying. And, for now, stealing time.
A friend of mine who is also a writer sent me this link: “24 Quotes That Will Inspire You To Write More.” The first quote from J.K. Rowling reads, “Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to the endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days.” I read that and thought, man. I am so not ruthlessly protecting my writing time. My book is taking years to write. Literally. YEARS.
Right now, the work I’m doing has invisible results. So much of what I do is invisible–that paycheck-less job of raising children and managing a house. If you look at the list above, none of those things truly have a tangible product. Clean laundry goes back in the drawers, food goes in the fridge, kitchen gets cleaned, kids are content and squeal when they see their mom at school, dog naps the afternoon away after a romp at the park, friends get seen and heart feels fuller. But always in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “Still, no book.”
Maybe this is my medicine–learning to say no and to outsource. I feel a new list emerging:
- Teach the kids to do their own laundry. (Note: This may take a few
- Ask generous husband to grocery shop.
- Send kids to friends’ houses.
- Ask handsome husband to walk the dog.
- Leave the kitchen for Friday’s cleaning lady. (She has no irrational fear of moths or fruit flies.)
- Order shirts and shoes online. (Note: This comes with inherent risk of ill fitting items thus last minute emergency trip to Target.)
- Remember that true friends will still be there when I emerge from the writing cave.
- Volunteer only once a month in the classroom. (Sorry, kids.)
- Take friends and in-laws out to dinner. (Selling book I write while otherwise cooking would help pay for this.)
Can’t write anymore. Time to go work on the book. Right after I hang out with that friend. And then clean up a little bit. And then walk the dog. Oh, crap.