I recently posted a tweet, asking some well-known authors where they like to write (coffee shops, parks, home, etc.). Margret Ogden, better known as Robin Hobb, responded with “Home. Always. Could never afford to write in coffee shop when starting out. Neither time nor money for it!” My initial thought was, “Me too!” But then the philosopher in me took over and I thought about the significance of her words. Specifically, “No time nor money for it!”
My wife and I have been visiting with her mother, helping her to get settled in her new home, and today we’d planned on taking a break to relax at a coffee shop for a bit, after a quick trip to Ross to get me some much needed new shoes. I’d been chomping at the bit to work on my new project while I await a response from a requesting agent. I packed my laptop, fully intending to soak my brain in my newest story, but, as luck would have it, our quick trip to Ross turned into an extended tour of the clothing section. By the time we’d gotten to the coffee shop, it was too late to delve into the story. So, I counted my losses and enjoyed my beautiful company.
I find that life often gets in the way of my plans to write. Laundry never ends, dirty dishes multiply worse than Spring rabbits, food still won’t cook itself, spouses and children need attention, and if I want to be able to charge my laptop, turn on my Mac, and sleep in a bed, I need to be able to pay my bills. So, where is all this time to write?
We write whenever we can. I’d love to be able to sit at home for hours on end, writing the stories that inundate my mind. I’d also love to be able to travel the world, cook amazing meals, wander Downtown Napa, Franklin, Bisbee, or whatever quaint town I find myself. But who’s got time for that when life demands priority? Not aspiring writers, that’s for sure. Not unless you’re independently wealthy, in which case, good for you! But for the rest of us, free time is a precious and rare commodity.
The prospect of writing a novel in a coffee shop, bar, park, etc., is romantic. We’ve seen it in movies and read about it in articles and books: A picturesque little coffee shop in Smalltown, America, butted up against a cobblestone street where you can always find Mrs. Smith, NY Times Bestselling author, writing her latest novel.
I used to enjoy floating through that fantasy, and I even had my go at it. Although, it was a local bar with dark beer, not a coffee shop with a caramel-vanilla latte. I gave myself every excuse as to why I needed to go to out to write: I don’t feel inspired at home, I have too many mundane distractions at home, laundry, dishes, a dog to entertain, blah-blah-blah. To be brutally honest with myself (and you), I wasn’t taking my writing seriously, and Mrs. Ogden confirmed that for me.
A while back, Neil Gaiman wrote: “If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not.” When our days are filled with life’s necessities, we can’t always choose when and where we want to write.
Sometimes we have to play with the hand we’re dealt, not the hand we want. Or, as I used to tell my soldiers, “Want in one hand and shit in the other, see which one fills up faster”.
Time is a luxury for aspiring, working-class writers, and it takes a LOT of time and focus to write a novel. Our finished product might be a 100k words, but we’ll have written a hundred times that by the time the novel is finished. Spend what little time your families and duties afford you wisely.