Very early on in my writing career–dare I say, before I’d written or published much of anything–I took a seminar with Ron Carlson.
Look, he has a Wikipedia page, but no website. What’s up with that, Ron?
Anyway, Ron is a very talented short-story writer, and a terrific speaker and teacher. There we were, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager wanna be writers with stars in our eyes over becoming full-time writers someday. He told us a story about his own life.
He’d started writing when he was teaching, so he grabbed writing time when he could. At lunchtime, in the 15 minutes between classes, waiting for students during office hours. We’ve all been there, where even a few minutes of writing time is precious and you snap up each opportunity. But you long for the paradise of unbroken writing time. It beckoned to him, too. How much more he could write, if he only had the time.
So, he and his wife reviewed their finances and decided they could afford for him to quit teaching and write full-time.
It was the worst thing that ever happened to him.
Also? The house had never been so clean.
He did dishes. He vacuumed. He dusted things that had never been dusted. He did not write. One day, a friend dropped by and found him washing the spiral cord on the wall telephone. (That’s a dated reference, huh?) She took one look at him and said, “Man, you are lost.”
One of the questions I get most often from new or wannabe writers is about finding the time to write. And my answer is always that they never will. You have to make the time, or it won’t happen. I also tell them that they don’t have to find much. 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there – it all adds up. And that bright and shining hope for unbroken writing time?
It’s a lie.
It’s very difficult to use time wisely when you have big chunks of it. Ask any retiree. They dally the days away. People who have to cram a great deal into their days, get a lot more done. Because they need to.
The more you do, the more you can do.
So, what was Ron Carlson’s solution? He got a part-time job. A couple of them. And when he was back to having a finite time to write in, he started producing again.
It’s a valuable lesson.