I had a dream the other night that I lost my sense of hearing. Rather than bemoan the fact that I could no longer listen to the latest Coldplay album on repeat (and seriously, there should be a support group for that kind of obsession), all I could think of was how much easier it would now be to get my writing done. I actually woke up happy, until I realized I could hear again.*
It’s funny how available I must look when I’m typing on the computer. For some reason, it must make me appear that I want to carry a conversation or go over the tasks of the day. Maybe it’s because a good portion of the time I am typing, I am actually looking out my window**, mulling over what’s supposed to happen next, the conversations between characters, or whether what I’m writing appears to be utter crap or blatant brilliance, never somewhere in between.
It could also be because in between thinking of things I want to write about, I might be checking my email or perusing Facebook and Twitter, searching for the one item that can serve as my muse, or at least unscramble that portion of an idea that is still just out of my grasp.
Here’s a confession – I am actually super mean when I am in my writing zone, and a member of my family comes and interrupts the process. I also enjoy writing in the common areas of the house, like at the kitchen table (where I am at right now), even though I want the room to be empty while I am typing. This makes it almost comical (to anyone but me) when the TV is turned on while I am working on my book, someone strikes up a conversation with me, the dog wants to play, a family member is inspired to hum the same tune over and over again, or a kid crisis needs to be solved, and I get irritated – as if I actually own that common area, and everyone else should just stay in their rooms until I am done. My solution to this is to huff very loudly, snap at whoever dares to speak to me, mutter obscenities to my little furry friend, stare disdainfully at the musically inclined, and slip my headphones on to block out the sounds of screaming children.
Of course, all this could be solved by being clear on my typing time, and my creative time – both with WHEN I am typing away at the novel, and WHERE I am doing it. It can also be remedied with how I view my creative time.
Most of us creatives use our time of art as a side project. It’s when we have time for it – not when we have MADE time for it. Many of us have jobs, and then families and household duties. Those are #1 and #2, interchangeably. And that’s fine. We have to pay the bills, and our families and homes are kind of endearing to us. So we say our creative time, the part that is our passion, is #3.
But is it really?
I can think of at least a dozen things I put above the time I could be creating on a daily basis:
– Watching TV
– Getting the high score on Bejeweled (yes, I still play that insanity)
– Checking in on social media
– Worrying about my book sale numbers
– Sleeping in
– Perusing the www
– Eating out of boredom
– Saying yes to yet another project that will eat up my time
– Catering to my kids’ whims (primarily being their chauffeur)
– Cleaning, or at least stressing about the need to clean
– Letting fear of writing crap take up space in my head
And there’s more. Most of these things are fine to do at any time during the day (except for the last one! but how do I stop that from happening?). But thing is, when I allow all those things to happen instead of dedicating my time to writing, that’s when it becomes a problem.
Let me put it this way. If I were to let any of those things get in the way of doing my 9-to-5 job, I’d probably get fired. As a worker, I am expected to set aside the time between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to get a specific job done. Outside of that time, I can spend it doing whatever my heart desires. But within that time, I am an employee with certain tasks that need to be completed.
This is how creatives need to view their creative time. This is how I need to view my writing time – as a priority. My most successful times of writing are when I wake up earlier than the rest of the house to get work done on the novel. In November when I do NaNoWriMo, this is how I win every year – I am dedicated to getting up at 5 a.m. and spending two hours writing – EVERY DAY. And I get very little sleep during the whole month.
However, sometimes sleep is more important than waking up early. That’s when a little bit of planning needs to take place. For me, that means writing on my lunch breaks, or shutting myself off in my room (or even leaving the house), or just being okay with the rest of the household buzzing by me, but being clear that for a specific time frame I am unavailable (this is best done with headphones on). And then I need to be clear on this MYSELF, using that time set aside for creativity, and not for wasting it with extracurricular activities like checking Facebook or worrying about book sales.
For any of us, I think it’s vital we make the things we are passionate about a priority, and stop looking at it like it’s an extracurricular activity. This doesn’t mean putting it above the things that are vital to our survival (our paying jobs) or our families (they’re kind of cute, after all). But it does mean taking those things that make us excited and placing enough importance on them that we are giving it our proper energy.
Your passion is worthy of your time. So is mine. Isn’t it time we allowed that to actually be true?
* I don’t actually think being deaf would be all that awesome, for anyone who is prepared to find offense with how casually I viewed losing my sense of hearing in my dream.
** Billy Collins actually wrote a poem on poets who are looking out windows while the rest of the world rolls by. I think it applies to all writers.