An acquaintance of mine informed me in conversation that she had written a book. She doesn't know that I write, as this is not something I'm completely comfortable with randomly bringing up in conversation. As a writing a book is no small accomplishment (especially if you're proud enough of what you wrote to mention it as readily as she did), I offered to read it for her and give her some feedback. She wasted no time in sending me a digital copy and in the body of the email, explained, “I don’t have lots of time to write. I’m not a professional or anything. I just write here and there.”
I thought she was being modest, and that these words are something that she said (and that we all say) when we don't want other people to know how much of our hopes and dreams are riding on our precious little creations. But her book, as it turns out, is nothing but a hot mess of a first draft. I'll still read it because I said I would, but her words about being a professional writer keep coming back to me.
See, most people have this idea in their minds of what it would be like to be a “professional” writer. If their ideas are anything like mine, the idea contains a decent sized desk inside of an office that one or more windows with a view of something other than a neighbor’s yard. A computer or typewriter sits atop the desk. The rest of the scene includes a few plants, a stack of books, a notepad, a cup of coffee. And piles and piles of uninterrupted writing time.
This idea is, of course, only a fantasy. The “piles and piles of time” should have been a dead giveaway that it was. Maybe somewhere out there, there are actual “professional” writers who have access to all of these things. They’re probably people who are legendary - like Stephen King. But for most of us out here trying to make a living with words, even if we’ve had enough success or confidence to deem ourselves professional writers, aren’t afforded meaningful blocks of time in which to write. The “here and there” tactic is how we get things done.
I decided that 2017 would be a pivotal year. It was the year in which I would “right the ship” and “get my life back on track.” (I’ve put these things in quotes, as they’re typical of what one says when about to make a big change.) A large part of this resolution, if we dare to call it that, was to start taking writing seriously. So I’m happy to report that in a few short weeks, I am enacting a very early retirement from my job so that I can spend my time writing professionally.
Just kidding. I have two small children, so in reality, I’ll be a stay at home mom who writes on the side. I’ll have all the responsibilities of keeping two tiny humans alive, maintaining a household, and writing/publishing/marketing my books thrust upon me at once. Guys, I have no idea how I’ll get anything done beyond keeping the two kids alive. If I’m being honest, even my ideas about how to accomplish that seem a bit shaky. There’s going to be a lot of crying, and most of it will be mine. The full-time, outside-the-house gig that I had going suddenly looks a lot more appealing than it used to.
I’m kidding again. Well...mostly.
My daughter’s cry is like an air raid siren: loud, unrelenting, and impossible to ignore. My son, like any four year old, is a tornado, all sound, action, and destruction. And my writing? It’s slow and very much unknown by anyone who isn’t in my immediate family or circle of friends.
My kids hate my writing career. (Or the fledgling little thing I’ve called a career.) It takes my attention away from them, and they’ve declared war on anything that shifts my focus.
Aside: It’s worth noting that as I write this, my daughter is clinging to my leg, screaming. She’s been fed, washed, hugged, entertained, held, and not held. My son’s passed out in our recliner because we’re attempting to wean him off of naps so that he’ll actually sleep at night. For the sake of my sanity, I’m letting him sleep, but I’ll pay for it later.
If either could speak well enough to adequately express their feelings, the both of them would likely cite me as their favorite thing. The girl’s always clung to me. She’s so young that there’s still some deep attachment that goes back to needing to be held and touched. She wants and needs all of the mothering. For my son, it’s probably something simple, like me possessing the magical powers to get him a snack or press “play” on his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine movie that he wants to watch again (and again and again).
I love the kids. I love the writing. But there’s not enough time in the day to give all of them the attention that they need. Someone always wins out. Most times, it’s the kids. But sometimes I”m a shitty parent. I hole up in my room, write 3,000 words, and feel like I’m finally getting somewhere, until I realize that it’s the end of the day and I’ve spent ten whole minutes with my children, combined. This battle is nothing new. It’s something any parent with ambitions beyond being a parent experiences. I don’t know how to win. I don’t know that it can be won fairly.
So whether I’m calling myself a “professional” writer or not, I’m not certain I’ll ever possess the time necessary to write. At least, not until all of these tiny humans are grown and living in homes of their own making. But I’m not inclined to wait the twenty years it will take to see that happen. I’ll be over here, hammering out words at mistake-prone speeds during naps, in between bites, and during the rare times when someone’s content to play quietly with his or her five thousand toys.
PS: I will not entertain any suggestions of getting up super early and writing before anyone else is awake. I’ve never been a morning person, and I’m too old to start now.
For those that are interested, here is the lovely view from my "office" window, and the desk at which I work. (It's shoved against the wall in the catch-all guest room.)