The Conundrum of Being a Writer: or, where is all that writing time, anyway?

I was pondering the conundrum of being a writer this morning, specifically, finding the time to write. Sure, there are a million life hacks and everyone has a piece of advice or two. Then there are the writers who, fortunately, get to focus on their craft as their day job—and they have loads of ideas on how to spend more time writing. Sadly, I am not one of those people. I have a day job, a commute, cats that make messes, and no one to cook for or clean up after me. I’ve given up calling upon Dobie’s kin, and until I have more discretionary money, I must—alas—feed myself and housekeep my home. However, something did occur to me—there was a time when I wrote. ALL. THE. TIME. Daily, mostly, and usually for hours. This far-too-brief period was as a University student and English major. I wouldn’t have made it through college without finding the time to do my homework, which was mostly reading and writing. And then it occurred to me—what if I treated my current writing like assignments for a college class? Years ago, I managed to do it—as a single mother, with a husband, and with one-two children. I had a house to keep, meals to make, kids to parent, a spouse to appease—and yet, I still managed to do all of my homework.

So, I have to ask myself, what the hell is my problem now? My answer is as simple as it is exasperating: I let other things get in the way. Rather than saying no, I spend a lot of time saying yes to Netflix, social engagements, volunteer activities, and social media. When I was working on my bachelor’s degree, my social life consisted of fellow students, all of whom had homework. Extra-curricular activities were paused for all of us so we could complete assignments. While engaged in academia, my daily life was filled with passion and inspiration as I discussed and wrote about literature. It was easy, and mandatory, to find time to do what I loved.

Now that I’m out of school, I spend a lot of time on, well, everything else, including excuses. There’s no accountability outside of myself. My grades are not going to suffer if I don’t expound upon why Othello is a play about marginalization. There is no one waiting for me to write a sonnet in order for it to be critiqued. The lack of disciplined answerability has made lazy. It’s just me, and I’ve become a recalcitrant writer, in spite of the Universe beating me over the head with a pen and pad of paper. So, if writing is my passion—what I love to do and must do—then I need to treat it like the assignment that it is. I have to be both the teacher and the pupil, and create my own grading system. This means saying “no” to what has become the daily routine (except for the day-job, I still need to pay bills) and put my writing first. The housework can wait, Netflix and social media can be paused, and a little fasting never hurt me. My friends, if they are indeed, will understand and not take “no, not right now,” personally. This is what my life looked like years—reading and writing (and at the time, kids) first, everything else second. It’s time for me to go back to “college” and give my passions their rightful place in my life—before everything else.

Addendum to this post: I managed to write this, three morning pages and one other assignment, and still clean the bathroom, kitchen, litter boxes, and part of the floor. So, yes,—I am reminding myself as I type this—it’s possible to do both.

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