One of my favorite memories of my teenage years was having the house to myself for most of the day. Without supervision or interruption, I could do what I pleased. What pleased me was to write.
I had decided when I was quite young to be a writer. I loved stories. I loved reading. I loved
imagining new adventures. It probably didn’t help that my mother would drop me off at “Library School.”
It was a story-time program at the local library to babysit children while mothers did their shopping.
I started to write in elementary school. It was fan fiction based on my favorite TV shows and
books. I was soon creating new characters and imagining all sorts of crossover stories. It was easy to do. I had no responsibilities other than school, homework and a smattering of chores.
When I was a teenager, my writing became more serious. I never went anywhere without my notebook and wrote whenever I could. My taste gravitated to science fiction and fantasy. I created worlds and languages. I spent hours drawing maps of worlds and pondering the social customs and norms. I asked many questions, such as: “What did they do with their dead?” and “What is the basis for the space emperor’s rule? What is the nature of kingship and authority?” I returned to the library to research potential answers.
Once again, it was easy. I had no real obligations.
I wrote much in that golden time, but I finished very little.
Why? It’s a question I’ve often pondered. The stories never ended in my mind; my dreams were
epic. I also thought it was maybe because of fear. I assumed I never finished anything because then I would then have to do something with it and face failure. Time eventually got the better of me, and I “grew up,” got married and started a career. I found other creative outlets; however, the stories never left me and new stories joined the old.
In time, a friend convinced me to return to my youthful passions.
I am a much stronger writer now than I was before, and yet I still struggle. Not with the writing as
such. Once I start, I write. It is the starting part that is the challenge. It is finding the time. It is putting writing first that is so hard for me.
My issue is, and always has been, discipline.
Unlike in my youth, it’s no longer easy. I have obligations. Now, I have family, a job, a house to
keep. People count on me. My time is not my own.
Every article about how to be a successful writer advises the same things. Create goals. Create a work area free from distractions. Be hard with others who come to steal your time. Your writing time should be inviolate. Read a lot. Write even more. Finally, create a writing ritual.
Other writers can do these things. They have found their thing(s) that keep(s) them writing,
producing and publishing. One of my writing colleagues went so far as to create an entirely separate writing area and trained his cats not to bother him when he is at his writing desk.
What is my “thing?”
I have tried setting goals and deadlines, but I find it easy to disappoint myself. I am very forgiving,
especially when I have sacrificed my time for others. Or when my desire to do something else is momentarily stronger—especially when I am tired or eager to find some mindless entertainment.
My home office is already a work area free from distractions. No TV in there. No cats either. The challenge for me is that I already work from home and spend dawn to dusk in my home office. After a while, I just need to get out of that room and see the world or, at least, the rest of the house.
The advice to read more and write more is something I would do if I could carve out the time. Not being able to do so is at the heart of my problem.
Creating a writing ritual is probably the one thing that would have the biggest impact. For a writing ritual to work, sacrifices have to be made.
It may sound silly, but I will probably have to go to bed earlier so I that I am not so tired at the end of the workday. After dinner, I will have to cut out TV and return to the office to work for at least an hour and up to two hours, if not more. Perhaps I can introduce some sort of treat to reward myself after my writing time but not before.
Will there be interruptions? No doubt. There are still those obligations, and sometimes there is no other time to tend to them than during the “time-boxed” writing time. The trick will be to write more than I am interrupted.
I think this plan will work. Professionally, I am successful. I get things done on time. I meet my
commitments. I attain my goals. Now all I have to do is transfer those skills to my writing life.
That’s a paradox, isn’t it? For work, I have the discipline professionally, but for writing, I do not.
Is it because for the first, I am paid and so I can pay bills and fund my lifestyle but the latter doesn’t materially contribute to my life? Is that at the heart of it? Real reward versus the emotional and immaterial rewards that writing brings? Is the tug-of-war between the practical and the fantastical at the heart of my struggles?
Or is it simpler than that?
Having thought long and hard, I have come to believe that when things come easily to you as a
child, you don’t learn the discipline to continue on when things are tough. If good grades come easily, you never learn to study. If you don’t have to fight for the time to follow your passion, then when you are confronted by multiple demands, you will struggle to find time for your own.
There are other factors, of course, but I contend that if you did not learn those lessons as a child, you must learn them as an adult to have any measure of a successful life. It’s time to be honest with myself. I really have no excuse. All the justifications in the world do not change the fact that I simply must do what I need to do and hold myself accountable.
Is that all there is to it? Just some willpower and a little sacrifice? For me, I think the answer is yes.
M.G. Martin was born to a flamenco dancer and an International Man of Mystery in the great state of New York ‘lo these many years ago. A precocious child, she started writing while still in elementary school and dreamt of becoming a published author. As she became an adult, she eschewed the life of a struggling artist and thrust herself into the world of business to emerge a self-made thousandaire. Returning to her lifelong dream, M.G. is currently working on her first novel in the High-Fantasy genre.