“Someday, I’ll be a real writer.”
“I’m a lawyer/teacher/rocket scientist by day, but what I really want to do is write.”
“If only I didn’t have to go to this soul-numbing day job and could just write all day, then I’d be happy/fulfilled/write that great novel.”
Sound familiar? For those of us that scribble on the side, who have “real” jobs that take up most of our time, the idea of writing full time sounds magical. That’s the goal, right? To turn this mad dash writing into a more permanent, structured, daily routine. Does that mean to turn it into, gasp, work?
I suspect every aspiring writer has some vision of that perfect writing life that will someday be theirs. I envision a cozy office, that bears little to no resemblance to any room that currently exists in my house. It will be perfectly organized, with just the right amount of artistic clutter- stacks of books, framed photographs, a wall of inspiration, with quotes and scribbles and torn pages, arranged just so. I am the one sitting behind the desk, curled up in the cream (comfy but stylish) chair, my hair pulled up in a knot, a coffee in one hand, as I stare at the ocean out of the window in between measured bursts of typing. I take a last sip of coffee, save my draft, glance at my watch, and zip out of my office to be on time to pick up my son from school. Where I will not be late, and my car will be clean, and he will hop happily into the car and chatter about his day. We will go home and have a snack together, after which I will return to my office and finish my word count for the day before dinner.
I know this is ridiculous. For one, there is a cream chair in my future vision. CREAM? I have a toddler who just yesterday poured syrup all over my couch. I also have a black lab that sheds. There will be no cream in any future office I might have. Please. I may be a dreamer, but I am not stupid. Also, I no longer live anywhere near an ocean. And I am not a stylishly cluttered person. In fact, “cluttered” would be a welcome change from my usual disorganized mess.
It’s ridiculous the way that it was ridiculous that I thought maternity leave was going to be this peaceful break from reality, one in which the new baby and I would drift merrily along, nap together and take long walks and live in a cocoon of bliss that I would never want to leave. My visions did not include tears and frustration and a red-faced screaming baby who most certainly did NOT simply snuggle up on my chest when he wanted to go to sleep. It did not include a husband who had a 3 month trial for the duration of my maternity leave, leaving me alone, scared and bored, to be honest. My vision did not take into account that having a baby, being a mom, was WORK. Hard work. That I was secretly glad to return to work just so I could get out of the house.
I follow a few blogs of lawyer turned moms/writers. They are doing what I hope to do someday. And occasionally they will post about missing the lawyer life, the meetings and the lunches and the sense of purpose. Of wondering if they perhaps made a mistake? I read these posts and I can’t relate. Maybe because I’m still there? I don’t think I will miss the work, or the sense of purpose or accomplishment. Mostly because I don’t feel any sense of accomplishment now. I do think I would miss the routine, the feeling of belonging to a world outside of home, the label that identifies me as a contributing member of society.
I signed up for NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year but of course didn’t end up participating, for various reasons. But I did get the “pep” talks in my email account. One was from Dave Eggers who had this to say about procrastination:
“It’s a very strange thing, because we all think writing should be fun. That is, when I was temping through most of my twenties, wondering what it would be like to write for a living, hoping for such a life, I thought it might be pretty sweet. I thought if I ever got to write for a living, I would feel pretty lucky, and that I would be so appreciative that I would bound out of bed every day and, like a goddamned adult, I would write as much as I could every day, and get work done in a reasonable amount of time. Again, like an adult.
Instead, I need, on average, 8 hours sitting on my writing couch to get one hour of work done. It’s a pathetic ratio. I stall, avoid, put off and generally act like someone’s making me do some terrible job I never wanted to do. I blow pretty much every deadline I’m given.”
I admit, I often wonder about what the reality of being a stay at home writer will actually bring. Despite my silly vision of my “perfect writing life” above, I pretty much think it will be like my Mondays and Fridays. In which I run around trying to be a mom, and do errands, and get my writing done. I will most likely not have an office, not at first. I most likely will still be at Starbucks, or at the library. I will procrastinate, I will be frustrated, I will not want to write, I will stare at a blank page, I will have a flash of inspiration, I will write something terrible, I will decide to quit writing, I will re-read that something terrible and find something decent, I will re-write and find something good. I will live for one good comment, and it will be enough to sustain me for awhile. I will begin again the next day. Pretty much what I do now, except that in between that I have to go to a job that I’m not good at.
My goal is to find a way to leave behind my lawyer suit and instead write everyday. Yes, like a job. Whenever my husband and I talk about the possibility of maybe, someday, me being able to quit my job, I never envision quitting to stay home. It’s only quitting to write. Which I would treat as a full time job, a 9-5 or thereabouts endeavor. But do I also have an unrealistic vision of what being a full-time writer will actually be like?
I suspect yes. When I think back to every big new adventure in my life (going to college, moving to Paris, getting married, having a baby, going to law school, re-organizing my closet), it’s never what I think it will be like. It’s always harder and always always infinitely more rewarding than I imagined. So I’m pretty sure I will look back on this post one day and think, oh, how much I didn’t know. But I hope I can always remember the way I feel about writing now, how much I love it and how much I am willing to sacrifice and how hard I am willing to work to get there. I hope I don’t lose the passion in the grind of the everyday.
Any “real” writers out there? What’s it really like? What do I not know? And any aspiring writers, come on, tell me what your dream writing life is like.