In my last few posts, I talked about why you might want to be a part-time writer, but today it’s time to get into the meat of really doing it: of committing to being a writer, whilst knowing you have a job to go to, kids to look after, voluntary work or hobbies or social events that need your attention. Because all those things are also important, right?
Of course they are. The trouble with a lot of writing guides I’ve read is that they espouse a rather simplistic message. If you want to be a writer, they say, you will WRITE. The harshest of these guides suggest that if you don’t write, then you never wanted to be a writer at all.
To a certain extent, this is something I agree with. Going for weeks, months or even years without writing anything, whilst continually talking about writing? That really doesn’t make you a writer. Sorry, but it’s true. However, suggesting you need to write every spare minute of every day if you’re going to make it as a writer isn’t true, either. Being a part-time writer is all about finding balance in your life, and the first thing you need to set are your priorities.
This, I admit, can sound a little woolly. When we start talking about priorities and motivation and inspiration, all things which make up a lot of any creative lifestyle, we risk descending into a fuzzy world where the work would get done, if only the Muse would co-operate (or maybe if only I didn’t need to rewatch an entire season of Farscape this weekend for the fifteenth time. I tend to find most descriptions of ‘the Muse’ a load of crap, because frankly, your words come out of your own head, and you don’t need to offer libations to some mysterious inner creature/external force of the universe in order to unlock them. But I digress.)
Fuzzy or not, though, every part-timer needs to work out their priorities. For me, this is a fairly simple process. There are things, after all, that just must be done. I have to work and thus earn a living. I have to eat and exercise. If you’ve got kids, you’ve got to feed and clothe them, too, or maybe you’ve got relatives to care for, or pets. Either way, these things will take up a certain amount of your time, and whilst you can try to delegate or maximise your efficiency all you want, that’s never going to completely go away.
Where priorities really become important, though, is in regard to the remainder of your time. You’re home from work. You’ve eaten. You’ve walked the dog. Now what?
It can be all too tempting at this juncture to turn on the TV, or reach for a book, or watch three hours of cat videos on YouTube before you fall into bed. Quite frankly, there are days when I can’t find the energy to do anything else. The rest of the time, though, when these temptations sneak in, I start asking myself questions. Which is more important to me: finishing this book or watching another episode of Location, Location, Location? (My love for home buying/renovation shows knows no bounds.) Am I going to kick myself if I don’t get this chapter finished this week? Are people really going to remember my extreme prowess at Minesweeper after I’m dead?
Okay, maybe that sounds a bit drastic, especially that last one (I’m terrible at Minesweeper), but there are times when you really have to remember what your priorities are. Maybe the most important thing to you right now is volunteering at a soup kitchen, or redecorating your living room, or raising alpacas, in which case you need to go out and do those things. Maybe, though, it’s writing that’s more important to you than anything else — which means, when the lure of the TV, book or video game is calling, you have to be strong. You have to write instead.
I realise this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. How do you choose between an obligation to a family member or your community, and your personal goals, for example? Explaining your priorities to those around you can also be hard, particularly if your loved ones just don’t see value in your writing. However, having some idea of your own priorities is absolutely valuable for part-timers in all fields, so that when distraction and weariness set in, you can think about what you most want out of life, and immediately know how to spend your time. And if one of those priorities is writing, and you put aside everything else to do it? That’s when you can call yourself a writer.