Like so many other English majors, I have been working on the same book for years. And yet, in all that time, I’ve only managed to write a few chapters.
Life just seems to keep getting in the way.
As a teacher, I even have an entire summer off from work—the perfect time to hunker down and write for days on end! Yet, despite all my great intentions, every summer seems to be busier than the last.
There are always various appointments and tasks to accomplish that have been put off during the school year. The house is always crying for attention by the time June rolls around, and the yard tends to be in worse condition. Needless to say, there’s plenty to keep me busy.
Knowing that, I decided I needed a new approach this summer.
After being awed by The Tiger’s Wife, I was intensely curious how someone so young could write something so incredible. When did she have the time? How did she focus on tying together all the minute details in order to weave such an incredible story?
Apparently, I learned from an interview, she became nocturnal.
She slept through the day, woke at 5 pm, and wrote through the night. Basically she isolated herself from all of her distractions.
Impressive is the word that comes to mind. She was so devoted to her craft that she allowed it to dominate her life, and the result was a masterpiece of writing.
Unfortunately, becoming nocturnal wasn’t an option for me. I have a husband, family, friends, and obligations that require me to be awake and functioning during the daylight hours.
My alternative was to “treat my writing like a job” as many have suggested. I decided to set strict writing hours from 10 to 3 Tuesday through Friday. These hours were non-negotiable and would ensure that I made some serious progress on my poor, abandoned novel.
Now that we’re several weeks into summer, I’d like to tell you of my great success.
I’d love to tell you about all my progress.
But I’ve only written one chapter.
Even with the best of intentions, my new plan proved as ineffective as all the others. In essence, it can be summed up by a saying my husband and I adopted ages ago from the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall:
I was going to write daily, and then “I just went about living my life.”
You see, every summer it’s the same thing: I commit myself to writing, and then life gets in the way.
Of course, the clear answer is to be stricter about writing, to avoid distractions.
But what if those distractions are equally or more important?
Rare days off with my husband. Outings with friends. Adventures with family.
These things matter. They make up my life and shape how I see the world. How can I limit them or cut them out in order to write a book that may never see the light of day?
The truth is that the book can wait. It will always be there, waiting to be called forth from the recesses of computer storage. It will be my ongoing hobby, not a job.
The people in my life, however, cannot wait. Who knows how long I have with them? Who knows the importance of that shared afternoon coffee or the spontaneous decision to stay in a strange city and make s’mores?
Living life is what matters most.
Clearly, others have found a way to live and write. Hopefully, some day I will find that balance.
But for now, I’m going to stop feeling guilty for things not done and focus on the beauty of things that I chose to do instead.
Like making s’mores with my sister…
Or going to gaze at a species that might not be around much longer…
There’s no regretting that.