This is actually a question I get asked about my other hobbies. I do woodworking, beer brewing and plus there’s the job, kids and trying to help keep the house from falling apart. Not to mention going to the gym in order to avoid a heart attack before the age 39. It’s a good question though. As I devote virtually every free moment to writing, I wonder. How is it that writers manage to finish not one, but multiple book while juggling work, home life and general living? I’ve only been at it hard for about the past year or so, before that I was a lot more casual about it. I’d go on jags for a few weeks where I’d think about and do nothing but work on my story, then I’d go weeks or months with little more than a cursory effort. Now as I enter the home stretch for having a full draft, recognizing there’s about as much work left as I’ve already put into it. I wonder – Is it really worth the exhaustive effort? This is a somewhat rhetorical question, I’m going to keep at it regardless of the outcome. I’m way to stubborn not to. It’s sort of like this: Let’s say I finish my story. Then there are at least 2 books behind that to finish out the project. Let’s further assume I manage to sell my work (this is a big assumption, I fully recognize this, but that is the goal.) I will still be working my full time job, managing children, ducks, other hobbies, and a constant battle with health (I’m not super unhealthy or anything – my usual work out is a 2-3 mile run. I just HAVE to do it almost daily or my blood pressure becomes dangerously high). So, what do other writers do? How do you manage the life-work-writing balance?
Today was a woefully unproductive writing day. I think I managed to get down two lines of poem before once again becoming distracted by the celestial scope of housework that needed my attention. If all goes well, the kids will go down in half an hour, and I’ll be able to focus. It’s not that I’m not thinking about my story, I’m just not able to put in the concentration necessary to work through my current issue.
Last night, after I got back from what can only be described as an epic alpine adventure, I opened my laptop and stared blankly at the chapter I have been working on in my story. The three main characters of this plot-line (I do have a single sub-plot for this book that follows different characters) were essentially sitting around a fire, staring at one another and asking what next? Unfortunately, I was right there with them, blank stare and all. Part of the reason for this is that the explanation of events and character motivation leading to the end of the story, as it stands, is flimsy. If my characters launched off in the planned direction, some pretty important pieces of the story wouldn’t make sense (I could make it work, probably, but I’d hate it). My solution? Well, this is one of the reasons concentration is essential to fixing things. I am going to change the timeline a bit by going back in time a couple of chapters, where I will add in one long or two shortish chapters. If done properly, it will give my main character the motivation he needs in order to head off in the direction he was already going, and also beyond. If I remain focused, I’ll also be able to write those new chapters in such a way that following chapters should only require moderate revision. Not only that, the more I consider this solution, I realize it’s not just a good idea for plotting, it’s going to be an essential element to the development of the character. So, here I go…
Is writing an obsession? Is it a hobby? is it a job? (As I’m not paid, it’s certainly not a job) Is it all three, none of the above? I don’t know, I was just sort of thinking about it. What I do know is that it’s not something I really have the luxury of spending 10 hours a day working on. Even then, there are days where I can’t think of doing anything else. If it hadn’t been for exploding a bag of tasty bites in the microwave, today would have been that day. Nothing done but daydreaming at the laptop. I suppose in the end I managed to strike a fair balance. The microwave is clean, the floors swept and mopped, laundry done, bathrooms cleaned, and the kids will have all had their baths in the next hour. Plus, I managed to draft about half a chapter. I wish all days could be quite so productive.