Life, or Something Like It

Life is what happens while you’re making other plans. — John Lennon

There’s the dreamer’s view of the writer’s life: the writer wakes up about nine-ish, gets some coffee and sits down to write. After a day of literary masterful material flowing magically from his or her laptop, he wanders off to spend time in a bar or pub or club with friends and talk about the craft of writing and how unfortunate that others don’t have such a happy life to live.

And then there’s the reality of writing life. You write when you can, how you can. And often, you’re not writing what you want to write; you’re writing words that actually pay the bills. I started off from college, more fortunate than others. I decided to try and find jobs that (1) had writing included as part of the job, so that I would continue to improve my craft; and (2) offered time away from the job when I could focus on creative writing, as opposed to the writing I was doing on the job.

My first job was as a managing editor of a weekly newspaper, where I worked Sunday to Thursday, with Fridays and Saturdays off. My wife usually worked Monday through Friday, which meant I got Fridays to write. I stumbled and fumbled my way through some stories and eventually a book.

Later–much later–that turned into a teaching career at a university where I got my summers off, as well as a spring and a Christmas break. Those turned into writing times for me. And somehow I got it into my mind that I could only write during those break times, but as my writing took off, I found that that wasn’t true. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I ended up writing all throughout the year.

National Novel Writing Month–NaNoWriMo for short–taught me that I can write fast and great amounts when necessary. The annual international event invites writers to create a 50,000-word novel in the 30 days of November. And after doing it a few times, I learned that I could crank out material quickly, even in the middle of a semester.

Then this summer, I retired. I went from being obligated to teach stuff to having only home obligations. Prime time for writing, right? One would think so. But it hasn’t been easy making the transition. No restrictions, no boundaries, and it’s easy to slack off. Also, my wife is with me 24/7, which I am not used to. Having fun isn’t really conducive to being creative, one finds.

And now, in the last few weeks, my son and his family have moved into town. With him are my two grandsons, one age 12 and the other just turning two this month. The two year old is a walking tornado. And of course, grandparents are ideal babysitters. Where does writing go in all of this?

Well, as my friend and former colleague Randy Maxwell told me years ago: “If you are going to write, you will find a way.” That’s the bottom line. Realistically, if the drive is there, if the motivation is there, if the idea is in your head, you will find the time and the means to write. Writers have been doing it for hundreds of years. You can too.

At least that’s what I tell myself. I’m not done writing yet.