When did you first start writing? When you were a child? A teenager?
As Picasso said, all children are artists. But most creative children lose the habit as they become adults, getting caught up in more lucrative pursuits. These individuals don’t look back, never considering taking up creativity again, not even as a hobby. But some people always regret that they didn’t keep writing.
Perhaps you are one of those individuals full of regret; perhaps you wish, deep down, that you could be a writer — a real writer. You imagine yourself at parties, cocktail in hand, possibly in a tweed jacket and John Lennon glasses. “Why, yes,” you’d say, swirling your cocktail casually. “I did just sign a book deal.”
I’m reminded of a James Joyce story, “A Little Cloud.” In this early short story, Joyce describes Little Chandler, a man anticipating a visit from a successful writer friend. His imagination stoked by his literary chum, he thinks of acting on his long-suppressed impulses, perhaps writing some poetry, for he’s always fancied poetry. However, unsurprisingly, by the end of the story, Little Chandler has decided that a poetry career is impossible for him. He has responsibilities, after all, choking, crushing responsibilities.
Here’s the truth: You’ll always have responsibilities. Even if you have the luxury of quitting your job and writing for eight hours a day, you’ll still have to take the recycling out, do your laundry, and clean the litter box. You cannot avoid responsibilities, and you cannot put off writing because of them.
Devote a special time of the day to writing. Block that time off as faithfully as you would a massage, and turn off your cell phone. Draw the blinds, and inform your spouse or roommate you are absolutely, one hundred percent unavailable at that time. This time is as important for your mental health as showering is for your physical health.
Some people simply rise early in the morning and write before anyone gets up. Some people write late at night, after everyone is in bed. Some people, such as myself, can’t do either, so one trick I used when I worked in an office was to write longhand in a notebook over my lunch break. I usually managed five pages that way, and I wrote quite consistently, even looking forward to it.
The point is, stop denying yourself the joy of writing because of imagined obstacles. You don’t have to write anything awesome, and no one ever has to see it. Don’t be fooled by the guy in the tweed jacket and hip glasses; a writer is one who writes — period.