10 December 2010

The Fussy Writer's Guide to Making Time to Write, part 2

This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.

So, let's say you're a fussy writer like me. You want to write a lot of the time, while having some time left over for other life pursuit type stuff, but you also have bills to pay.

Two words: marry rich.

Just kidding. (I am not totally kidding. If you find someone to love who can support you in your vocation/s, take them up on it.)

But okay, let's say that marrying rich is not an option. Here's the first thing you need to do:

Pare down your expenses to the lowest possible amount.

I'm talking about really looking at where your money is going. Shave your budget right down. Decide what you need and what you don't need. Second car? Get rid of it. You won't need to go anywhere: you'll be writing. New shoes? Buy them later. Clothes? Value Village, Goodwill, or some other discount store. Or, consider this: that old sweater you already own is perfect writing gear. No one is going to see you in the workout pants that have a hole in the knee.

Obviously, how you do this is up to you. Some expenditures will have obvious solutions. I traded my book purchasing habits for trips to the library: easy peasy. I planned major expenditures - car repairs, vet visits, dentist trips - such that they spread out over time, rather than clumping up in one month where their effects would be disastrous.

The big thing for me was groceries. In our household, my partner covers rent and utilities, and I deal with groceries, car insurance, basic car maintenance, and internet. Groceries were the biggest item on my list. They still are, since I'm not too willing to compromise on eating healthfully. But I did cut back on our bills by shopping almost exclusively from the perimeter of the grocery store - the dairy, bread, meat and produce sections - focusing on healthy, unprocessed food rather than prepared stuff. I had been doing this already, but I amped it up pretty extremely.

My point is that it's vital to cut back on all expenses if you want to live like a fussy writer.


Fussy writing is not about taking 15 minutes a day to try to squeeze in your writing dream. It's about great gouts of time that you can roll around in and play with and dream in.

If you want more time, the easiest way to get it is to cut back on the hours you work. Negotiate a day off. Move to part time. Move to a lower responsibility job. The bottom line here is, you need to make a change. Time is money, people. Less money earned equals more time.

Being frugal - as extremely as you possibly can - will allow you the freedom to write.

Maybe you're entertaining fantasies of J.K. Rowling-like success. That's totally fine. Entertain those fantasies all you want. The fantasies won't pay the bills. That novel you're writing, well, it might not either. But it definitely won't get written if you don't take the time.

Here's what I've learned in the last couple of years of actually writing: dreams of success don't even come close to the happiness you feel when you know you're making yourself into a better writer. Finishing a short story and submitting it is a great accomplishment. Drafting a novel, realizing it's horrible, and drafting another one is good, hard work. Learning new tricks and understanding more and more about how to make your writing better - that is where it's at. All of these things are so, so sweet, and all of them are only possible if you spend great gouts of time on your writing.

I have to admit I'm at an advantage here, although it probably won't sound like one. When I decided I was done with higher education, it was at the crest of the economic crisis (which, admittedly, seems to have continued cresting). I was not super employable, and there were no jobs, anyway. I learned to budget on no income to speak of, and I learned exactly how little I could get by on. I realized that a full-time job isn't necessary for me right now. I would imagine that many of my decisions would seem totally absurd to someone with a good job (or at least a job), but coming from the totally unemployed side, working part time looked great and not scary at all.

Since I've started to cobble together a living, I've found that it is totally possible to fit work into my life, not the other way around.

More on that in part 3.

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