What’s keeping us from being writers?

No one wants to hold down a regular, full-time job and be an auditor in their spare time as a hobby, but many people have regular, full-time jobs and are writers in their spare time.

Being a writer doesn’t require a certain level of education– just a certain level of skill. You might argue that you have to pass eighth grade grammar lessons to be a writer, but that’s not true. Some of the best story tellers I know can’t differentiate “site” from “sight.”

Being an unemployed writer who is searching for a job doesn’t mean polishing up your resume and dressing up in a nice suit for formal interviews. A lot of times, it just means writing more and emailing your written words to one person or another.

But once you’re an employed writer, what does your day-to-day routine look like? I mean you’ve got what is essentially a desk job, but it’s not always an office job.

I tried “living the dream” during two consecutive three-day weekends, and I have to say, it was a nice life. I got several short stories written– one of which I am really, really proud of. The first two days, I started out by going to a coffee shop on the other side of town. I ordered a large breve with sugar-free vanilla syrup, and I sat down. I started out by reading– The Long War by Terry Pratchett on day 1 and reddit on day 2. Then, after a period of time, I put on my headphones, put on my Ellie Goulding station on Pandora, and I began with a blank Word document. Time passed, and words appeared on the screen. On the first day, I intended only to stay for an hour or so, but it was 1 PM by the time I was ready to deal with other things. The second day, I invited a friend to join me for conversation and catching up. Minutes before she arrived, I found myself typing as fast I could because the thoughts were flowing nicely in my head. When I glimpsed her out of the corner of my eyes, the thoughts dried up and I began wondering what she had been up to recently.

On the third day, I decided to save my $5 coffee. I heated up some milk and frothed it before adding it to a sugar-free chai latte concentrate. Then, I sat down and did some reading on reddit. It took me two hours to get to the point that I was ready to write. And when I started writing, it only lasted an hour or so before the dishwasher shut off and the dryer dinged. I wrote a little more that evening, but mostly out of a feeling a guilt because I did not write very much that morning.

The following weekend, I didn’t write at all on the third day. I was tired from a long day of being out and about. The first two days of my weekend were at home, and they went about as well as the time I tried writing from home the weekend before.

So my homemade chai latte costs less than $1, but I get so little writing done. I’m distracted by the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming, and the many other domestic tasks that make my house a comfortable, inviting home. Getting out to the coffee shop takes me away from all of those things, costs several dollars in coffee and gas money, and I find it so much easier to focus and stay on-task. The seats are uncomfortable, and there are so many people and children coming in and out. It’s like my mind is set on filtering out all the activity going on around me, and I’m able to really focus on what I’m writing… even if the story is turning into a drama that I really don’t enjoy.

I wish I could figure out what it is that makes the coffee shop a great place to write and bring that to my home. I wish I could take it to my work as an auditor. So many days, I show up at work, and I have all these plans for what I will accomplish that day. But then 11:30 rolls around and I’ve been at work for 4 hours… it’s lunch time already, and I still haven’t actually gotten anything finished.

So what is it that keeps us from being writers? I think the most obvious answer is just “life” in a very general term. Many forms of entertainment (including reading and TV) are designed to put information into our minds, but writing forces us to take information from our minds and put it elsewhere. For me, I’m easily distracted, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to my family, my home, and my friends. I have to find that perfect balance– where there’s enough going on that I’m forced to focus (just slightly) on writing to the exclusion of all else.

I’ve got competing hobbies, as well! Sewing, biking, reading, camping, cabin-building (or dreaming of it at least), cooking, and sooooo many more! Has anyone started getting excited for November? It’s National Novel Writing Month!




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