Friday, May 05, 2006

Manufacturing Time

By W.L.Elliott

There’s a saying, an old standby, that we’ve all heard.

“You make time for what you want to do.”

I beg to differ!

Sometimes, that simply is not true. Ask anyone who has ever worked 12 hour rotating shifts in a mine, pulled greenchain for 14 hours in a lumber mill, or worked three jobs to support a family of four on minimum wage. I’m sure they’ll agree with me. That old cliche is not always accurate. Not that I mean to play the devil’s advocate, but there is one simple fact that cannot be overlooked.

You cannot manufacture time.

All you get is twenty-four hours, seven days a week. No more, no less. Within that time frame lies everything that must be accomplished to live day to day. No matter how hard you try, there will always be something demanding your time and attention. And, unless you are one of the blessed few, the most crucial item on your list of priorities will probably not ever be your writing.

I’d like to thank Willard Boyd Gardner for bursting my little bubble on this particular subject. As a friend and I were rhapsodising about the day we could quit our respective jobs and write all we wanted to, he gave us some words of wisdom.

“You’ve got to realize,” he said, “it’s going to be a while before you can make a living by writing. You’re not going to be able to just quit your job right away. Probably not for years.”

Hardly the unbridled optimism I was hoping for, but still a well-placed reality adjustment.

Face it, Bill’s right.

You make time for what must be done; a career with a reliable paycheck, time for your family, food on the table and a roof overhead. It’s the reality of living. In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In other words, no one should ever feel guilty for putting survival higher on the ‘must do’ list than writing.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s a bright one. Unclaimed moments occur all over in between the pressing matters of everyday living, and they are time that we can borrow for what we want: to write!

As an example, do I absolutely need a hot lunch, when that few minutes waiting for the microwave in the break room could be spent writing? This is why I scribbled down the notes for this article while scarfing down cold macaroni and cheese. Two hours of my eleven hour workdays are spent in the car, time with nothing but me and Ford on the open road, where I can talk to myself, planning whole pages of dialogue and no one is there to think I’ve lost my mind for doing it.

So, despair not, O Writer with a full time job!

Just learn to like cold macaroni and cheese.


LDS_Publisher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LDS_Publisher said...

Good post.

I linked to it on my main blog page under Nobody I Know Writes Full-Time and also in reply to an unhappy reader in the comments trail of another post.

Jeff Savage said...

Great post. I think every author who finally published that first novel think, "Finally I've made it. I can go stand neck deep in Walden Pond as I ponder my next masterpiece. Or I can go buy that cabin by the lake. Or I can just finally quit my job."

Then reality sets in and you realize that you might be able to pay off the sod in the backyard or clear up some credit card debt. What really stink is the first time you get a royalty statement and you owe the publisher money for returns.

I try to take two things to heart when I dream of the day I can write full time.

First, more people make a living playing professional baseball than make a living writing novels. And even those who do make a living, often spend more time marketing than they do writing. James Patterson and JA Konrath are two perfect examples of this.

Second, somebody's got to do it. The greats of today are going to be replaced by the greats of tomorrow. If I am good enough and work hard enough and am lucky enough, there is absolutely no reason it can’t be me.

I don't need a pedigree to be a top writer. I don't need to be rich. I don't need to have the right connections. I just need to do what I have to do.

Somehow that relieves me. Does that make sense?