Mind Games 7: The Writer’s Jekyll and Hyde

Statistically speaking, I doubt there are more than a thousand or two successful full-time writers out there in the U.S.  I heard a statistic once upon a time a long, long time ago that there were only a few hundred. But a lot of that depends on what one considers “successful,” I would guess. From my own perspective, I have been fortunate to have day jobs that involve writing of one sort or another AND give me time off to pursue the muses that haunt me incessantly.

Nevertheless, I look forward to the day when I can “retire” and officially call myself a full-time writer. As a university professor, I have summers “off,” even though that’s a relative term too. One of the things I have learned by writing during the summer is that I am social enough to the point I can’t just sit at home and write incessantly. Catch-22, I know. So my plan is to teach a writing class or two, if and however long they will have me, while pursuing writing more seriously at home.

Right now, three weeks from finals and four weeks from graduation, the itch to write is infecting my mind. In this recession age, the demands of any job are increasing to the point of being unable to concentrate on creative pursuits too much during the school year. Add to that the fact that I have adult children and a grandchild now living with me, and you can see why I find myself in a creative quandary. If I am a writer, when and how will I be able to write?

Well, to quote my good friend Randy Maxwell, “If you are going to write, you will find a way.” That’s the reality of it. Serious writers see their work as not just an escape from the harsh reality around them, not just a hobby, but part of their identity. I have taught a few writer’s workshops over the years, and the vast majority of people I saw there talked a good talk about writing, but I suspect weren’t willing to apply seat of the pants to seat of the chair.

My problem is not time. It’s simply limited space between my ears. In some ways, I have lost the usual drive I have for writing at this time of the year. Why? I have gotten caught up in the reality of the writing business. You know; the reality that tells you that more than 50% of a writer’s time these days needs to be spent in marketing? It’s too much like my day job, but to have readers, it’s the truth you have to live with.

My wife is amazed at how much time I spend reading these days. I read for many reasons, some of them that actually make sense. I read to recharge my creative batteries. I read to get new ideas. I read to escape. And I read to get myself in the frame of mind to write.

What I think I need to do now, before I sit down to write, is take a mental vacation. Fishing is a good example. I like to say, “Fishing is the best excuse invented for doing nothing.” It’s when I am doing these no-brainer tasks that I find my creative muse. Mowing the lawn. Washing dishes. Backpacking. My day job is very cerebral. What I need is some non-cerebral time.

I realize that this blog is more a rant than anything else, and not that well organized. Maybe that’s part of the therapy I need as well.

In any case, these are the days to sort things out.