I’ve been asked, even in the past 6 months or so, when I’ve written considerably less here than I did when I began this blog, how I find ‘so much time’ to write. Or how I can write ‘so much.’ This is a common question I’m asked. Almost everyone who has ever contacted me based on reading something I wrote has asked me some form of this question.
My initial reaction is to discount the effort I put into the things I write. I say, “Oh…I’ve worked on this fiction for years. It just seems like I’m putting a lot out fast…”
(There’s SOME truth in that…but I’m still putting out a lot of words pretty quickly).
“Oh, I am privileged to be at home a lot of the time, and I get to express myself creatively instead of having to go work somewhere 15-50 hours a week.”
My husband is supportive. We’re financially secure. We have an established, well-oiled household routine. My kid is well behaved and smart and kind and ‘easy.’ Those things are all true about me and I AM privileged to live this life with J and devote a lot of my time to writing blog posts and fiction. And I’m grateful for that, because it’s an immensely happy, contented, fulfilling life for me.
“Oh, I really don’t put much effort into what I write.”
I hammer out a blog post in less than an hour. The actual tasks I complete at home like laundry and cleaning and making grocery lists allow me to thoughtfully consider the words I choose and the story I want to tell in my blog posts and fiction at length before I even put a word onto paper, so it does usually come out pretty quickly when I start writing.
“Oh, I don’t really like television that much (I actually don’t watch any commercial television at this point…because it stresses me out THAT much), so writing and reading (books, online and print articles) just takes up the time some people use watching a lot of television or do something else to relax or have fun…”
All of that stuff is true about my life and contributes to how much time I have to write and how much writing I can produce.
I put a lot of effort into my marriage and parenting and friendships. I put effort into being an informed citizen of the world and spreading around love and kindness and helping people who need it however I can by offering resources to the community when and how much I can. I cook every day…we don’t usually ‘go out’ to eat or even get take-out, and while we aren’t complete shut-ins, J and The Boy and I are all introverts who actually enjoy and prefer being home most of the time. Our boy isn’t a ‘joiner,’ or a ‘performer,’ and he’s never really been into sports, so we’re not running around to practices and games and recitals and club meetings multiple times a week like many more scheduled, socially involved families are. Unless we’ve planned a special family outing, we aren’t always ‘going out.’ In a way, that contributes to time to write, because we’re home, but in a way, it means we’re often together, and my writing can be interrupted by an impromptu request for help/attention of even an involved conversation or project with J and/or our son. My perceived abundance of ‘free time’ to write isn’t as abundant as some people make it out to be (myself included in that group of ‘some people.’)
And I put a lot of effort into my writing. I don’t like putting out meaningless shit. So I really do think a lot about what I write before I release it. In the case of fiction, I edit the story multiple, multiple times before anyone but myself (and sometimes J) ever looks at it. And beyond that…the truth of the matter is…I MAKE time to write.
On the one hand, particularly with fiction, and sometimes with personal essays too, it almost feels as though I HAVE to write. But on the other…writing is important to me. I’ve made it a priority in my life. Just as some folks make exercise a priority, and some folks make their paying job/career a priority, I make WRITING a priority. Other than the living beings who are important to me, whose happiness is important to me…writing is next. It’s the most important thing in my life that isn’t a living thing that can be touched. It almost is human to me. I have a relationship with writing that I put effort into.
I understand that there are many people out there whose lives are determined largely by outside forces that don’t control mine (financial pressure…kids’ social involvement…health concerns…) and I own that those are privileges. But it’s also easy for people who share my privileges (or some who even have more than me) to say, “I wish I had the time to write (or exercise or have family outings or dates or watch the new season of some show or cook dinner every night or whatever it is)…” while making busy-ness an excuse to never really do it. If you truly want to do something, make it a priority. Bump something else you’re doing in favor of that thing you prioritize. Bump that outing at a bar after work with your coworkers if you don’t really want to go and you’d rather read that book or cook dinner at home or work out or write. Don’t zone out staring at your phone or the television or your computer and do…whatever that is. And if you don’t want to bump something? That thing really isn’t enough of a priority for you.
And THAT’S OKAY!
All of us can’t do everything we want, even with unlimited time available. Even if I did nothing but write all day every day, I’ll never really get to tell all the stories I want to tell, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to hear and read and watch all the stories other people wrote and lived. I’d miss out on my son’s life; on my relationship with J; on my friends’ lives. I wouldn’t accomplish the other things I care about.
I have the time to write because I have the privilege to make it a priority.