09 December 2010

The Fussy Writer's Guide to Making Time to Write, part 1

I am a fussy writer. I am also a fussy cook, a fussy walker-in-the-woods-avec-chien, a fussy meditator, and a fussy tai chi practitioner.

What I mean by "fussy" is that when I find something that I like to do, I want to do it right. I want to spend lots and lots of time doing it. I want to clear my schedule for that thing. I want to take my time. I want to treasure it. Otherwise, I find it difficult to focus, and I become a cranky jerk. I don't feel right about myself, or about other people. I become irrational. I lose it. It's indecorous.

When I decided to clear my schedule for writing, three years ago or so, I began to poke around looking for advice from other writers in my situation. I talked to friends about it. A lot of them were trying to skootch 15 minutes of writing into their week, or whatever. They were sad. They weren't really writing.

My martial arts background has served me well, in many ways. I know that you can't learn something by practicing it for 15 minutes once a week.

I wanted to find writers like the one I wanted to be, meaning writers who write all the time and still stay afloat financially without becoming super burned out.

I spent some time researching this. I looked into writer's blogs of various kinds. The successful ones mostly seem to have hatched from an egg with a contract with a major publishing company clutched in their yolky talons. When a well-established writer did talk about the days before he or she made it, the stories tend to be about slogging at a day job and crying into the keyboard while becoming increasingly sleep-deprived. While I respect and admire people who work at soul-grinding, mind-sucking jobs - or even just full-time, regularly tiring jobs - and then come home and still find time to write copious gouts, I just can't.

I'm getting old? I don't know if that's an excuse or a reason. I'm getting impatient is more like it.

With a little more research, I found some blogs by writers just starting out, who talked about freelancing to fill in the gap in income. Fortunately for some of these aspiring writers, they happened to be skilled in certain highly valued and well-paying areas that meant they could divide their time between writing and paid work and still make a good living. Unfortunately for me, my degrees are all in the arts. These days, let me tell you, it seems that nobody wants an English major. Especially not one with a PhD.

Ultimately, my goal was to create time to write, meet my financial needs, and allow me to feel like I still had some juice left over after I did work for pay.

Because there is a dearth of information out there about the seedier choices made by aspiring writers, and I am (pretty happily) living some of those seedier choices, I wanted to use the space of this blog to post about how I'm managing to stay afloat while still doing what I want.

I hope that parts two and three of this series will be useful to you, especially if you're facing a similar set of conundrums.

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