You sit by the window staring out into nature. It’s night. The rain is battering musically on the roof of the house. It’s your down time. You’ve done everything needed doing for the day. You’ve even done all the dishes, and now, you sit by that window, your favorite relaxing spot. Perhaps you have a glass of wine to help you wind down. Perhaps you have music on, a roaring fireplace (or heater, or a snuggling blanket). It’s not even 9 on the clock. Maybe you have an hour to yourself before turning in for the night, because, let’s face it, you have a job to get to in the morning. What do you do for that hour to yourself? Perhaps you watch TV, maybe you read, maybe you do absolutely nothing, or, just maybe you write.
Now back up for a moment. Did I just describe what thoughts go through people’s mind when a writer tells them what they do, or aspire to do in life? I think I did. This is the misconception about writing that’s quite prevalent. Writing isn’t an easy thing to ‘do’.
Let me put it this way: if writing were easy to do, and something one can do simply in their down time, then wouldn’t you see a lot more people do it as a ‘hobby’? After all, how common is it to come across a person who says ‘Oh, I’ve been meaning to write for years,’ or ‘I have a story that would be fantastic as a book/film/tv series’. Plenty of people.
So here is the thing. Writing isn’t really easy. In fact, it’s very hard to do, in fact, it can take anywhere up to years to write one story. Not to mention the fact that once you write it, it’s still not done. It’s got to be edited a million times before it gets published. Sadly, some never see light of day.
Writing drives you crazy! It’s not easy dealing with day to day life in reality. Now imagine having to deal with all that plus an extra set in your imagination. You have to build a world from scratch and make them believable. It’s not easy to draw in an audience and keep them till the end these days. Seems attention span is starting to shorten with people in modern time, not to mention they are time poor. Otherwise, why else do we need a 140character tweeter word count?
Writing isn’t what we do in our down time. So please don’t devalue the work and effort that goes into it. If you want to know the truth, most writers who haven’t already hit ‘big time’ as it were are probably holding day job, keeping a house, looking after family and being present in every moment that calls for it, and trying to squeeze in a ‘moment’ however small to write those precious words.
This is how I mostly write: on the train (if I’m going anywhere). Why? Because it’s dead time, and it’s mine, so I try and make the most of it during commute. That’s essentially how I finished the second half of my first novel. I used to head to work early, or stay back after work an hour or two, find myself a cafe and order a coffee, and sit there and write till that hour was up. That’s how I wrote my second novel. Or, write between ads, or chores. And these days, I write in bed, before I sleep. Why? Because it’s the only time the house is quiet and there isn’t anything else that needs to be done for the day. Then I write. That’s how I’ve now written 6 short films, a feature, couple of outlines for both features and future book ideas, and that’s how I’m writing my third novel. I manage do these by sneaking writing into my life. Not when I’m relaxing. Not by a long shot. A 5 minute here, 15 there, sometimes if I’m lucky, an hour before bed, despite how sleepy I am. And if I’m extremely lucky, I can turn it on whenever I want. It’s not easy to write. It takes a psychological strain, and it’s not something that works on a switch. Some days, I could be desperately trying to continue a piece when I’ve managed to find myself a ‘spare’ moment as most call it, and nothing comes. The flow isn’t in you because your mind is divided between a thousand other things.
My wish for today? I wish just for a moment, people wouldn’t assume anything about what a writer does to get that story on paper. Instead, ask them how do they do it? You don’t even need to listen to the answer. The question itself is enough to signal that you at least know it’s not an easy ‘job’.
If we are lucky, we will have family members and friends humor us by reading our work. If we are extremely lucky, then our stories reach a wider community. And if we are beyond lucky, we get that book deal with a publisher. And yet, most would have been writing for years and years without anyone knowing.
Having spare time as it were, 24/7 to do what you love doing and get paid for it would be absolutely a dream come true for all those who dream it, but life’s not that easy nor simple, at least getting rid of the misconception, now that’s something we can try and do.