This post goes out to the misunderstood.
You know who you are. You live with people who love you very much, but who do not necessarily understand why you’d want to get out of bed early in the morning (and thus wake them up) to creep over to the kitchen table and…what? Why?
Or you realize they are occupied one Saturday afternoon watching YouTube videos, or studying for exams, or playing with the backyard kitties, so you seize the moment to grab your laptop and write for a bit. As soon a you settle in and begin tapping away, ear plugs in, world out, however, your people find some reason to need you. They can’t locate the sauté pan. They need help revising a paper. They can’t find one of the cats. Please help.
And you have to help because you want to help. Because you love them more than writing–as you should–and to explain to them that “this is my writing time,” doesn’t always sink in. Because they simply don’t understand.
So what do you do?
Well, I am probably not the best person to ask, given the scenarios above, which happen daily, but in the past, I have written some ideas I had on how to find time to write when you have a day job, That post, however, didn’t really address what to do when the little time you do carve out competes with others’ desires for how you spend that time.
As I prepare for NaNoWriMo, my biggest challenge will be that big question from family and (most) friends as to “why the hell would you want to do that?” The implied question is also, “Why should I take second fiddle to your hobby, even for a few hours a day?”
When I wrote my dissertation (much of which I wrote in a fairly short time-frame, buried in notes, writing music blasting into my ears, pen inked up my hands and arms, my bird sitting on my shoulder like a pirate’s parrot, me chattering to myself), I had an easy answer. After all, no one debates why you’d want to complete your dissertation–I mean, duh. But a novel? Writing just to write? For what purpose?
And the answer to that question is: Because I want to.
How do you like them apples?
There are certain things in life you have to do because you simply want to do them and in general–as long as you aren’t harming others–that is enough of a reason. There doesn’t need to be another.
You get to be you.
Writers, you do not need to explain yourselves or your desire to write (for NaNoWriMo or anything else). After all, I don’t challenge people’s desires to watch videos of cats knocking coffee cups off high surfaces. And if a person wants to spend an afternoon watching Grey’s Anatomy? By all means–we have choices in life. And fantasy football? I don’t get it, but I certainly can understand why this is enjoyable, and even a psychological need for some people. I get that we all like different things and, frankly, need different things, just as I can understand why someone might want to climb a mountain or venture under the sea, just because it calls them. Isn’t that part of being alive?
The same is true with our writing. And if you’re like me, you’ve been writing since you could spell, so writing has become part of who we are, how we engage with the world, how we make sense of things. And yes, it is part of how we have fun, which is a completely valid reason to write–as valid as any other.
You need no explanation other than, “Because I want to,” but if that doesn’t work, I also have a few more ideas:
- The people around you love you, so when you are trying to find time to write in your home life, start by explaining to them how you are writing because it makes you happy and you want to do it because you just want to. That’s a good enough reason and you don’t need to explain beyond that. In fact, if you do, you’re defending, which you don’t need to do. You get to be you.
- Let them know that you will be writing from x time to y time and to not interrupt you. This allows them to realize that there is an end to this madness and the sauté pan hunting can wait until noon. Keep it realistic (i.e. I don’t advise ignoring your family for an entire week-end, every week-end. Break it up a bit. An hour here, an hour there, etc.)
- Earphones and loud music. I can’t stress this enough. I started using this tactic many (many, many) years ago when I lived in a very loud dorm as a college freshman. That dorm was so loud that once, the fire alarm went off at 3:00 a.m. and I completely ignored it because I thought it was just my neighbors’ typical antics. With that level of noise (and the fact that I couldn’t just pack up my giant word-processor and head off to the library in 1990 like I could with a laptop now), I had no other option but to crank up the tunes. The training of that served me well–now I can write anywhere as long as I have earphones and music.
- Get away to a library or a coffee shop as a last resort (and don’t take your phone). I did this for my dissertation on a couple of occasions when I had a tight deadline and needed little interruptions. I try not to do this often, though, because I prefer to be around my family–them doing their things and me doing mine–and I try not to leave them very often. And clearly, this won’t work with little kids (mine are all teens and/or in college).
- That said, I wrote when the kids were little, too. When I really wanted to get something done, I wrote at night, but if I needed to write in the daytime, that’s when I broke out a new Lego set or made them a new batch of sparkly play-doh. That type of thing can buy at least an hour until a fight breaks out.
- Scrivener can be used on an iPhone and iPad….I have been pondering what program to use for NaNoWriMo and I’ve used Scrivener enough to know how to use it (I’ve written three short stories using it), but it does have a very steep learning curve, of which I’m still ascending. So I considered just writing the thing in Word and being done with it, until I considered how useful it is to be able to pick up where I left off with my iPhone and iPad. Let’s just say that in the past, I have been able to get some words written on an iPhone in a doctor’s office waiting room using Scrivener or Evernote. That type of thing is golden when you are trying to get your word count up.
But at the end of the day, remind yourself that you don’t need to explain yourself. You want to write because it makes you happy. It’s just how you are. And that’s good enough.