copyright 2009 aaron paul lazar
As if sabotaging your dreams, reality creeps in with a cold splash of guilt. Your two-year-old screams for ice cream, but really needs a nap. Your teen needs a ride to soccer practice, chauffeuring home for a dinner that isn’t yet started, and another ride back to school for play practice. All the while, your eight-year-old just wants to be loved. She asks for help with her homework, and you try to squeeze it into the third trip up to the school. She needs time with you, special time. Your guilt mounts.
Laundry calls your name from the room that’s starting to smell a bit moldy. Weeds creep higher in the garden, and it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish the bean plants from the pigweed. Some days you don’t know how you’ll find time to pay the bills, never mind write a story. You buy extra powerful vitamins to see if they’ll help you get through each day, and although you know you should be cherishing these moments when the kids are little, you secretly dream of the day when you’ll be able to call your time your own.
Or perhaps you’re a corporate slave, commuting hours per day to the job that pays the mortgage but steals your soul. Maybe you’re chained to a desk, or your schedule is jammed with back-to-back meetings. You fly from topic to topic, trying to save the company, or at least fix that one annoying problem that’s sucking the life out of you. Your day starts at 5:00 and ends at 7:00. By the time you get home, you just want to eat, check your email, and flop in front of the television so someone else can whisk you away to worlds only imagined, filled with intrigue, romance, or mystery.
And so it goes. Pressure. Stress. Duties. Responsibilities. They zap your time and wrap you up like a mummy who can barely see through the slits in the white cloth, a drone who glimpses that elusive creative life with envy.
Now stop right there! I’m here to tell you that it can be done. With a little sacrifice, you can carve time out of your day to get that novel started. Even if you “do it all,” like Sarah, the accountant in the following example.
Sarah is a mom who works full time outside the home. After work, she hurries to daycare to pick up her two year old. Her husband isn’t exactly the “let me do the dishes,” kind of guy, so she cooks, sews, cleans, packs lunches, shops, reads to her son, walks the dog, and often takes out the garbage. The hubby mows the lawn and fixes things. In Sarah’s life, there’s barely time to take a shower, never mind luxuriate for a few minutes to jot down a few poetic phrases.
When I met her, I instantly recognized Sarah’s “writer” voice. Through her emails, I picked up on a severely suppressed creative urge. Her words sang to me. They were filled with so much more than typically needed to describe directions to the nearest Thai restaurant, or sharing about those juicy apples she discovered at the orchard tucked away in the boonies. I called her on it, and she admitted writing lots of stories in high school and college. She hoped to write. She planned to write. But life just wasn’t cooperating. She’d have to wait until she retired.
I challenged her. “Take fifteen minutes every day–during your lunch hour, if necessary. Just write something.”
Sarah admitted she ate at her desk most days, anyway. She surfed the web or chatted on the phone. When I mentioned writing, her eyes widened with fear. “I wouldn’t know what to write!”
My answer–write something. Anything. Write gibberish. Write about your dreams last night, or about a scene from your childhood. Write about your wedding. Your rock garden. Your dishes. It doesn’t matter what. Get something down on paper, and show it to me tomorrow. Just write.”
Because Sarah was never shy to accept a challenge, she listened. She’d been interested in Civil War re-enactment lately, and had planned to bring her son to an event in the coming month. With bleary eyes at night, she’d sewn him little costumes that fit the time period, and had researched the heck out of the topic. So, it was no surprise when on that very first day, she wrote the first pages of what ended up being a very tidy little historic paranormal novel about a young woman caught in a Civil War time warp.
Do we all have such books in us? Is it always that easy? Was Sarah just lucky?
The answer is that if you have the calling, if you suffer from the aches and pangs of wanting to write, if you think about stories on your drive to work or in the bathtub, if the itch is so persistent that you’re cranky when you can’t scratch it–then you already are a writer.
In Sarah’s case, the first page of prose she wrote was lovely. Her talent leapt from the page. I knew she had it in her, and all it took was fifteen short minutes every day to get it started. Of course, once she was hooked, she spent her whole lunch hour writing, and even finagled the not-so-helpful hubby to give her several hours a week so she could write.
Sometimes we need to negotiate with our spouses for more time. Sometimes we need to prioritize. In my case, I used to rise at four in the morning to write for two hours each day. It was the only quiet time in our very busy household. Sure, I went to bed early most nights. I’m not a martyr. I need my sleep! But what did I give up?
So, instead of being lulled into a stupefying sleep at night by mindless junk that others had written, I took control of my life and started my own series. Thirteen books and ten years later, I still don’t care about television, and I know I made the right choice.
You can do it. It’s a matter of making a conscious choice for your writing soul. You have a voice. You need to be heard. Now go figure out a way to let it out!