Writing Thursday: Why Should I Stay Up Late Again?

I hope you’re having a good week. Mine’s been a little hectic. For instance, last night when I was posting on Facebook, my youngest daughter Cupcake found the can of Pledge and decided her older brother MJ could be a little shinier. MJ yelled to me that Cupcake was spraying him with Pledge. I stopped what I was doing and handled the situation. With two visits to the doctor in the past week for strep tests (one positive and one negative), kindergarten registration, kindergarten assessment, my father-in-law’s seventieth birthday dinner, and various car rides, I’ve had a busy week. Not a bad week, just a busy one. But it begs the question that so many writers seem to ask: how does a writer gather all of her sensibilities together after a hectic day and get the strength to put it all aside for a couple of hours to write?

I admit that I always flock to the writer’s life workshops where other writers talk about how they manage life and writing. I always keep my ear open to try to find out their secret. I’ve listened to authors who have full-time jobs, who are write-at-home mothers, who are retired and are active volunteers, and who have busy lives. Some wake up two hours before the rest of the people in their house and huddle in a corner writing before the stresses of the day weigh on them. Some stay up two hours later than everyone else in their house, using the time to wipe away the stresses of the day, getting their word count in before they fall asleep. Some haven’t watched a television show in years, writing when the rest of the family is watching television and it’s quieter. Some authors type in the car line, waiting for their kids to leave school. To paraphrase what a chapter mate of mine told all of us who were attending her workshop is this: the characters in her books are her friends. We all want to spend time with our friends, and she works hard to make sure she writes every day, catching up with her friends’ lives. Her message, and the message of all the other writers, is the same: they make time for what is important to them, and writing is important to them.

Hearing something repeatedly and putting it into practice are two totally different things. I know I should write everyday, but some days it’s hard to get motivated. What then? How do I put aside a day full of mediating fights, folding laundry, listening to choruses of “Let It Go” from one side of the car along with “It Is Cold” from the other side of the car, and more to do justice to the stories floating in my head?

It’s hard, but I’m learning to write whenever I can. While I work best in a controlled atmosphere with a three-hour stretch of either writing or editing, I’m learning how to grab snatches of time here and there to write. The other night, I was in the living room with one child playing Wii, another child arguing with the child playing Wii, and the third child petting the dog and singing at the top of her lungs. (The fourth was holed up in her room, thankful for high school homework so she had a legitimate excuse to hide away.) I’m on my final run-through of one manuscript, and I had my pen out, making corrections and making sure there was no blood shed. At the end of every page, I’d stop the fight and use my mom authority to ensure domestic tranquility at least for the first half of the next page until the newest crisis began. But at least, I did get five pages edited that way, five pages that wouldn’t have been edited if I didn’t try to get it done.

The inspiration for this post came from another chapter mate’s Facebook post begging for answers for this question. My mind flew through reasons, most of which revolved around approval from others. Finally, I hit upon my real answer. I can’t motivate myself to write for the wrong reasons. I have to find the time to write and the will to write for myself and for my character friends’ stories to be told. There are days it’s flat out hard. And sometimes, I might edit a couple of pages and read a craft book and call it a day. Ultimately, I have to push everything else out and focus on the story and my characters. So I write in parking lots, at playgrounds, in my living room, in restaurants, at libraries, and everywhere else I can, whenever I can.

How do you find time to do the things you enjoy? Let me know.

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