Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another Frightening Distraction

As a writer, there are many things that can easily take away your focus on writing. And while it might sound cold, there are certainly good things in your life that steal your writing time away: things like family, friends, etc. That is one of the most challenging things about being a writer.

You have countless ideas, a burning desire to write and yet finding the time to squirrel yourself away, alone, and start typing words onto a page can remain one of the most difficult challenges.

One of the main differences between the average person and a writer isn't the ideas. Everyone has those. In my mind ideas are ultimately the EASIEST part of being a writer. If I didn't get a single new idea from now until the end of my life I'd still have thousands of stories to tell based on all the ones that have already come to me. So it's not the ideas, it's the DOING. It's the dedication to actually putting those ideas into words, crafting stories and tales -- then editing and rewriting them. That's the difference.

I love my family, my friends, love doing social activities. But every single one of them also means time not spent writing. I know it sounds like a cold thing to say. And this has been an ongoing challenge for me for the past two decades. Perhaps longer, since I remember sitting by myself in the basement on a hot summer day hammering out a "novel" on an Underwood typewriter while a group of my friends were outside laughing and splashing in the pool. The manuscript I was working on, at the age of 14, was certainly not good enough to ever see print, but there I was, plowing away at it, channeling that pent-up urge to write while sacrificing fun time with my friends.

And that's the other part about writing. I write lots, yet release only small amounts of the writing out into the world. Much of my original writing doesn't ever see the "light of day" -- it either lies dead on the "cutting room floor" or never gets tweaked to my satisfaction that any other eyes should see it. It's like an iceberg. There's a lot put into making that iceberg stick so magestically out of the water -- and most of it is hidden. Most of it happens while you're tucked away in some dark corner madly hammering out word after word after word. And when you emerge, you usually only emerge with the "good words" the polished prose to show the rest of the world.

All that time spent working on your writing, that was so hard to come by seems to produce so little actual words and stories.

The frustration continues on. You can choose family and friends or choose time spent writing. Also, having a full time day job makes those times you CAN spend writing that much more difficult to find.

I will often get up extremely early in the morning, while the rest of the household is fast asleep, just so I can spend an hour or two working on my writing.

But then, of course, comes the job. And here's the catch-22. It's important, nay CRITICAL to me to work at a job that I love. And fortunately, for the past 16 years working as a bookseller I've been doing work that I can be passionate about. Monday, for me, isn't a dreaded day. It's a joy to come in to work. Would I rather spend that time with my family or writing? Sure. But the great thing is that I actually also look forward to coming in to work -- I find work fun, interesting, challenging and motivating. I'm blessed and very fortunate to have such a fulfilling job.

Of course, there's the problem.

I really love my work -- I can be committed and passionate about my day job. And when there's more work than time in the day to get it done (as part of my job I also happen to currently sit on the Board of Directors for Booknet Canada as well as Canadian Booksellers Association, not to mention other membership involvements I have with CCRA and CSC) it means I regularly bring work home to me and have plenty of reading and other projects to do in the hours I don't actually spend at work.

Which takes more time away from my day that I could be spending writing.

I wouldn't have it any other way, of course. I mean, since you do spend an average of 60% of your waking time at your job; it's a damn good thing when you can have a career that you can actually enjoy.

But where does that leave a poor writer just trying to squeeze out some time to write?

It leaves me with less and less sleep -- that's where.


lime said...

ah, thanks for this peek into the mind of a writer and how he finds the balance to attend to all the things he must attend to.

lime said...

or...perhaps balance isn't the right word....thanks for demonstrating how the scales tip all over the place sometimes.