The Lifestyle of Writing: Part One

The Lifestyle of Writing: a multi-part blog on the day-to-day existence of a writer.

Part One: The Top Priority

Writers write. Anyone who spends any time at all reading writers’ blogs, exploring how-to sites and tips, or chatting with writers will hear that phrase. Let me say it again: writers write. That’s it. It isn’t “writers publish.” It’s not “writers market themselves.” It’s not “writers have agents” or “contracts” or “copious amounts of free time.”

Nope. Writers write.

So, if you want to be a writer, then you have to ask yourself that one question: Do I write?

It sounds like a simple question—and it many ways it is. If you consider yourself a writer, and if you write, then let me follow up with another question. Did you write something new today? Not edited previous material, not re-wrote a scene, not edited for other folks. If you have written new material—even on an existing project—good for you! If not, when was the last time you wrote something new? Yesterday? Last week? Last month? Longer than that?

Most people reading this blog will not be full time writers. Most writers are not full time writers—we have day jobs. We also, like most people, have families, friends, hobbies, pets, goals, dreams, and problems. All of these things climb over writing on the schedule. All of these things can be *urgent* in a way that writing is not.

What is the consequence if you don’t write the last 500 words on that story today? Now, what’s the consequence if you don’t feed your toddler? Or your cat? What if you don’t get to work on time? Head to the store so there’s food in the house? Make it to the pharmacy for the family medications?

Pretty soon, writing is so far down the list that it might as well not be there at all.

And that’s okay.

That, to my mind, is the first thing that writers have to do, once they’ve made the decision to be a writer: make peace with the fact that finding time to write—along with all the other things in our lives—is tough. It is a constant battle. Minute after minute, hour after hour of precious time is eaten away here and there, and soon, there’s no time left at all.

So how do we navigate this? How do we find or make the time?

First, like I said, it’s okay to know that sometimes, we won’t.

Second, we prioritize. Make a list—and be honest, no one has to see it but you.

What is the most important thing in your life? After that? The next? Where does writing fall?

Now make another list—and again, be honest. How do you spend your time? What do you do every day?

Do these two lists match up? Is what you believe you value what you actually spend your time on? Is the most important thing to you the thing that gets the most attention? If so, great. If not, why not?

Now, all of us, anyone who wants to be a writer, wants to see “writing” near the top—maybe at the top. Certainly in the top 5. But reality isn’t always that way. Sometimes, it isn’t the top, and, if we’re being honest, we don’t want it to be.

So we’re not writers. Right?

Nope! We’re still writers. We need to learn how to balance our time. We need to work toward our strengths.

So, more questions: Are you a morning person? A night person? Do you wake up refreshed and energetic, and wind down the rest of the day? Or do you wake up reluctantly, hitting the snooze button until it fights back? At seven o’clock at night, do you perk up? Get a second wind?

When is your “have to” time and when is your “can do” time? If you have children, when do they get up? Got to school/daycare? When do they get back? When do they have baths and go to bed? When do you work? When do you have time off? Do you have meetings—social or work—multiple times a month? What part of your life is scheduled, and what is not?

Now, look at your “can do” time. What do you do when you have time to do it? Is this when you spend time with friends? Hang out with a significant other? Chill online? Play video games? Watch Project Runway Junior? Work out? Have a leisurely cup of coffee or tea?

How much and when do you have time for writing?

Can you mark this time off on your calendar?Can you make this time as sacred and inflexible as the time you get to work, or the bedtime for your child?

Writers write.

Writers also do everything else in their lives.

Here’s a particularly useful blog to check out: Magical Words. This is a collection of fantasy authors who created a blog to discuss writing. Not only will you find things about the writing life, but excellent posts on the craft, on marketing, on the business (agents, queries, etc.), among other things.

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