Lately, I’ve been catching a trend among my author friends (and many whom I haven’t become acquainted with) where they tell you all about their process for writing, you know, what they do to prepare, how their working area looks, and all that good stuff that really amounts to saying, “this is what I look like when I write.”
Quite frequently, these posts aren’t all that surprising. There’s a picture of a computer with words on it next to some sort of latte from some place that has more locations that Waffle Houses, which might still be pumpkin spiced but could have moved on to peppermint, I suppose. The desk is clear, the area looks like it’s been well cleaned and prepared for eating a meal off, should the requirement come into play. The notes that come along with this picture involve sitting in a coffee shop, or having that secret moment when everyone’s asleep, or, you know, this blissful act of writing in which everything is perfect and you might as well write because the music is soothing and you’ve got that word processor already opened.
I just sat back in my chair for the last five minutes trying to come up with the most appropriate segue with which to announce that some authors don’t have the luxury that these other authors present…some authors, in fact, might be quite far removed from the serene image of coffee and croissants and Enya.
I’m here to tell you that some authors…just a few, I’m sure…work in an environment that is ultimately more chaotic.
That picture above, that’s a picture of my desk, taken just now, as I settle in for doing some writing. I clean this desk almost daily. Almost daily it looks something more akin to the pictures you see on all the blogs telling you about the perfect way to sit down and write…unfortunately, it’s completely destroyed, partially by me, partially by my children, before I even get word one out.
That coffee mug to the left? Yeah, it’s been used for coffee…unfortunately, it’s after 10am, meaning that it’s empty, as is the pot next to it. I don’t have any barista around to fill that sucker back up with some mixture of coffee, cream, sugar, and whipped topping…nope, that thing will stay empty until I decide to go back downstairs and make another pot…a decision that comes with the internal struggle of….”do I really need a whole ‘nother pot of coffee?”
That plate has the remains of my breakfast…it was a great breakfast. I may have to go downstairs to put the plate away soon.
Oh crap, that’s right, I’ve got to get the laundry switched over!
While I’m down here, I might as well wash that load of dishes that has been waiting.
The school called? Guess I can hop over and drop off some meds for the kid, sure.
Okay, sitting down, cracking my fingers, let’s get to work. Maybe I should turn on some music? Option 1: turn on music, spend hour trying to decide what I should listen to in order to better assist with whatever I’m writing at the moment. Option 2: realize I’ve already lost most of the morning to work, home, kids, and coffee, and that I should probably finally get to that writing I had intended to start ages ago.
Oh, but I’ve got fifteen minutes until that meeting at work. I guess I’ll get back to writing later…might as well watch a few minutes of Naked Gun while I’m waiting. Not much good can come from fifteen minutes of writing, right?
Okay, I think I’ve made my point. Although my writing day doesn’t generally actually work out quite so chaotically, the life of an author isn’t always one in which a person can always, quite so easily, just have that set period of time to just sit down and work. More often than not, it’s during the times in between things, late at night when everyone’s asleep and you’re trying to ensure you aren’t typing too loud, or while waiting for something to begin, unless you give yourself the excuse that it’s not enough time to do so.
If I spent my days writing like many of my author friends claim to do, well…I simply wouldn’t get any writing done. Not that I’m knocking their methods, or doubting them to be true…in fact, I absolutely wish that I had the ability to just go down to the local watering hole with a laptop and put down a few thousands words while working on a pint. I used to do that, in fact, back before I had kids, a house, and a real job…back before I was married…back when I was just a man living life.
That final sentiment might make it seem like I hold grudges about how life has played out for me. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I wouldn’t trade my chaos for anything…you know, outside of the day job, of course. If anything, this chaos has forced me to become even more organized than I ever would have been before. It requires me to build a routine, a routine that includes daily writing, as opposed to the days of my youth where I would just write when I felt like it, when there was “time”. If I see a moment to write, I’m not going to waste it with cleaning up my desk and running out to the coffee shop. I’ll seize that moment and use it for all its worth. Even when it’s a month from now and I’ve got a squirming little newborn on my lap…typing with one hand…getting those pages out…
If you had some sort of vision of me sitting behind a computer on clouds while I thoughtfully put words to the page…I’m sorry for killing that vision. The reality is much more akin to that of the traditional journalist, fighting against a deadline. There’s food waste everywhere, the keyboard is well beyond dirty, and there’s a ton of screaming and crying…some of which isn’t even from me 🙂
And I wouldn’t trade any of it (except the day job).
Have fun out there!