You have to write every day, if you want to be a writer.
Everyone says that.
Okay, maybe not everyone, but enough people to make it seem like everyone.
But what about life? You know, living? Doing the living stuff, like sleeping and eating and earning money and taking care of the kids / elderly parents / needy loved ones. What about that stuff?
I began this writing adventure exactly three years ago when I finally discovered I had a story I wanted to tell. At that time I was a senior consultant with a hard-working wife, two adult children, the greatest granddaughter ever born, a large group of friends and a serious passion for nature photography.
When does a guy write?
I’m a morning person so I moved the morning up a couple hours. The alarm started its annoying buzz at 5 a.m. Not that bad for a morning person, especially in the summer when it’s lighting up out there at 5 a.m. During the winter, it got harder.
I kept this up until last year when we experienced a family health crisis. I found I could not write at any hour, much less 5 a.m. Two years and three books in the computer, and I couldn’t write!
So I stopped and dealt with life. Sometimes you do that.
Was I less a writer than I had been the previous two years? No. I wasn’t producing stories, but I was a writer with more important things to do.
When the crisis eased, I found I still couldn’t write until my wife asked me to take it up again. I told her I just couldn’t focus enough to make things up, i.e., write fiction.
Fine, she said. Write something else. I did. Ironically, or maybe not, I turned to working on a memoir about my two years in Southeast Asia during the Viet-Nam War. That is, I went back to doing what I knew: Reporting.
The project took a year — much longer than I expected — but it’s done.
Am I back to writing fiction at 5 a.m.? Nope. Still cleaning up the memoir mess. (Doing the maps took two weeks alone. I devote at least half a day a week writing customized pitches to agents and carefully filing their rejects.)
So am I a writer or not?
Yeah, I’m a writer. Sometimes life intrudes, and you need to clean up a mess or two.
I’ll be back to writing four to six hours a day like the old days, but I’ve already decided that I won’t be doing the 5 a.m. wakeup call again. Life is too short, and I’ve found other things I can trim.