The Waiting Game . . .

. . . is made by Nerf. Seriously. As I sit compulsively staring at my inbox as though I can will the agents reading my manuscript to feel my anxiety and respond, I have been enjoying the pleasures of my son’s Nerf basketball hoop, conveniently hung in our new study over the laundry room door. I can sit watching my email remain empty for hours on end while thoroughly exhausting myself with a little foam ball and plastic hoop. I should be going through the boxes piled up on the other side of the room like drifting snow, but instead I contort my body into all sorts of odd positions in an attempt to add new levels of difficulty to hitting a basket two feet from my head.

Geez, I’m pathetic.

I am still writing, though. Project Superhero continues to come along at a nice clip and I should finish part one within the next week or so. Based on what I know about the second half of the story (which, for those of you who don’t write or, worse, use an outline), I think it will progress quickly. Lately, I’ve been able to get my 1000 words in roughly 45 minutes to an hour each night, regardless of which project I’m working on. It feels good to be in that kind of flow, to know that no matter what story I decide to work on in a given session, I’ll be able to produce that kind of output. I’ve been reading the blogs of other writers who tell of their dread of deadlines and the added pressure success has added to their lives and, while I would love to have these problems, I still take a certain amount of pleasure in knowing that I’m still free to choose without worrying about the expectations of other people. I can write what I want to write, when I want to write it, because there’s not one damned person around to tell me I can’t.

On a related topic, I’m always amazed at the number of people who tell me that they would love to write a novel, but don’t have the time to devote to it. “I’m a great writer,” they say, “and I have this wonderful story idea, but I’m just too busy to sit down and write it.”

You’re too busy, huh? Really?

I work as a manager for a large pharmacy chain. My job requires a minimum of 44 hours per week, not including the half-hour lunches I take each day. Where I work is nearly an hour away from where I live and writing while I’m driving, as much as I would love to use that stretch of time, is out. I’m a bad enough driver as it is. I also have a wife and four children, two who live with me and two who don’t. Having any children eats up a lot of time, and there is no better way to spend time than with your kids, but they don’t care that daddy wants to write a book. They want daddy to jump them on the trampoline until their noses bleed from the high altitude. They want daddy to help them with homework. They want daddy to fix them bagels with cream cheese, then sneak them ice cream behind their mother’s back. I do all these things without hesitation and, more importantly, without remorse for the time I’m not spending writing. I will always have stories to tell, but my children will not be with me forever. I also have a wife who, even after almost nine years of me, still wants to spend time with me. I could not ask for a partner more supportive of my dreams and more willing to read my crazy stories, but there are times she wants me to step away from the keyboard and acknowledge that she exists. Again, I watch movies with her, help her with dinner, even just lie around in the bed after the kids have gone off to school without thinking of how many words I’m not writing while I’m spending time as her husband.

I also have other interests. I read a lot–a vital part of any prospective writer’s life–and, thanks to the wonderful proliferation of audiobooks, I manage to use my drive time to help me out with that part. Off all the books I read in a given year, probably half of them are on tape or cd (see my previous post on audiobooks for more on this) and I love the experience of listening to a good story. There is still something magical about the spoken word, something that appeals to the primitive parts of my mind (yes, I know, I’m male, they’re all primitive) that recalls an age when all stories were shared through speech rather than writing. I play tennis when I can and, sometimes, video games when I can’t. I’ve even acquired a treadmill to help me work off the spare tire that seems to have settle around my middle just north of my belt. I browse the internet, particularly sites and blogs having to do with publishing. I enjoy music and sports and board games and, occasionally, even the company of friends.

And yet, despite my schedule, which is just as busy or more so than anyone else’s, I find time to write. I do it because I want to be published, yes, but it’s more than that. I do it, every single day, to prove to myself that I can. Every time a writer sits down to compose is a sacrifice, not only of time, but also of self. Writing is hard. It’s lonely. There is an endless list of other things that I could be doing, but I choose instead to make up stories, something that requires discipline and time, two things most people have precious little of and, what they do have, they often waste.

I prefer not to waste my time. I pack in as much as possible into every day, most often sacrificing sleep in the process. There may come a time when I can follow William Styron’s daily schedule–sleep until noon, lie in bed thinking for an hour, get up and dressed, write until the wee hours–but that time is not now. For example, it is nearly three o’clock in the morning as I write this. Once I post this, I’ll open up one of my current projects and still pump out my thousand words before I fall asleep, knowing that my kids will be up in a few hours, climbing up on top of me and prying my eyes open, asking for breakfast. And will I get them breakfast? Okay, not if I can convince my wife to do it, but it’s likely that such attempts will fail and I’ll get up anyway, eager to spend time with the children I’ve not seen most of this week due to their school schedules.

I’m busy, but I still write novels. It’s something I want to do and I’m willing to do what it takes to meet my daily goals. Someone telling me they don’t have the time to write is really telling me that they don’t want to write. They want to have written, but don’t we all want the reward without doing the work? Don’t we all hope for the dessert before the vegetables? The grinning lottery official showing up at the door when we never purchased a ticket? What these people miss is that sometimes, and especially for me, the work is it’s own reward. Even if I never get published (hopefully, that’s not going to happen), I will not say that my time writing has been time wasted. Wasting time would be sitting in front of a computer all day while my children play in the backyard without me or while my wife watches a movie alone, wondering if I would think it’s as funny as she does.

So, don’t waste your time. Use it. Even if it’s just playing Nerf basketball while you wait for your dreams to come true, make the most of it. There’s not enough of it to go around.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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