Sunday, January 11, 2009

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and Waiting

It’s exactly noon and I’m waiting for family to come over for a visit. They are due to arrive at any moment, but I’m done with all my preparations. I put out some chips and salsa, loaded the dishwasher, vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom and hid some ironing that that I didn’t get to. Really, there’s nothing left to do. I could keep putzting around, sift through a magazine or start channel surfing, but I’m not going to do that. A new thing I promised myself this year is to seize writing opportunities. Sure the doorbell could ring any second or it could be twenty minutes, or maybe even an hour. People leave late, or get stuck in traffic. Regardless, I’m constantly trying to find perfect moments in which to write and those don’t come around often. So many times I find myself feeling antsy because I’m ready and no one else is. Or, like today, I feel like I’m wasting time when I’m just sitting around and people arrive later than expected. Lateness doesn’t bother me. It’s always pretty laid back at my house and there are so many times when you have to be somewhere at a specific time. When it’s just a gathering, I want people to come when they can and not rush. However, I do kick myself when it ends up being a half an hour or an hour and I did nothing with it. I guess it may even be a New Year’s resolution to make the most of these opportunities.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to turn on your creative juices at a moment’s notice. Often, I’m tired or anxious with whatever I’m waiting around for. I like to tell myself that I’ll write for an hour today or hey it’s the weekend and I have no plans, so I can write for two hours. Last year, I found that approach works for some, but I often end up not writing at all and then feel guilty about it. It’s more important for me to just say, “I’m going to write today.” This way I can be happy with whatever makes it on to the page.

I’m at a place in my life right now where I can make time for writing, just not as much as I would like. My kids are older and can fend for themselves, but the younger one still needs help with his homework and the older one still needs to be dropped off and picked up from everywhere, I still have a full time job and a million other things on my plate. I admire the writers who are able to work all day and write till the wee hours, sacrificing sleep and sanity. I know myself though; my day job would suffer and would feel like I was neglecting my kids. I have to do what works for me even if it means I don’t accomplish as much as I would like. Something is better than nothing.

In 2008, I wrote more than I ever have in my life. I finally seriously turned out some stuff I’m proud of. The last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about my writing goals for 2009. Should I make a schedule? Should I chart out time for research, website maintenance, workshops and classes? You know what? I need to say my goal for 2009 is to write more than I did in 2008. That’s a great goal. It’s much better than promising to finish the rough draft of my novel (that was last year’s goal and I’m only now embarking on chapter three).

Hopefully, last year taught me that I can do this and I’m finally on a path of discovering myself as a writer and what that definition means for me. Comparisons usually set us up for failure, and those that succeed do it on their own terms and often in unconventional ways. Maybe I’ll become the famous writer who only creates when she’s waiting. Look, I wrote this whole piece and still the doorbell hasn’t rung. Good for me!


Suzanne Kelsey said...

Colleen, I think you're on to something by resolving to write in the cracks. I remember years ago reading an interview with Jane Smiley, whose family was younger at the time. She said that she wrote while waiting in the car for them to come out of athetlic practices, even if it was just 15 minutes. She said that, in effect, if you weren't dying to get to your writing, maybe it was too boring. Her comment made a real impression on me. It's a habit you have to cultivate -- that of writing even when you don't feel like it. Because the irony is that once your kids are grown, and even if you suddenly have 40 hours a week to write, the habit of going to the page will not come any easier. There will always be reasons not to start -- the kinds of existential reasons that Eric Maisel talks about in "Van Gogh Blues." Of course, I'm giving myself this talk even while I'm giving it to you. :)

Colleen Gonzalez said...

Thanks Suzanne! I'm beginning to see that I'm a very different writer if I write everyday instead of just when I have time. It's my goal for 2009, but more likely a life long challenge!

Marcia Girardi said...

There's a wonderful book on being an artist or creative person and making a living. It's been in print since 1997 and is still going strong. It has a silly title, but it describes the different types of creativity, interviews creative people and gives ideas on combining day jobs and creativity. Don't let the title put you off. "Creating a life worth living" by Carol Lloyd.