My Writing Time is Sacred, but Please Don’t Ask Me What I Did All Day
April 21, 2021 § 33 Comments
By Sally Schwartz
It’s easy to be a writer. All you have to do is tell people, “Hi. I’m a writer.”
Gosh. All this time I thought I wrote memoir, and then this nugget of fiction pops out of my fingertips.
The nonfiction version goes more like this: It’s not so easy to be a writer.
Already I need to make an edit. One thing about being a writer is crazy easy: dressing the part. Really, I can’t say enough about the wardrobe. Everyone is going around, giving credit to COVID-19, as if only a pandemic could inspire an appreciation for elastic. Meanwhile, every writer worth her weight in sweatpants can attest to the fact that we’ve understood the joys of pajamas-as-daywear long before the world went into lockdown.
Earning no steady income, and forgoing benefits might be seen by some as professional drawbacks. Those people, who clamor for the gentle buzz of security, are among the short-sighted masses. They are the ones impervious to the thrill of the imaginary world book tour we take in our heads. They forego the satisfaction of daydreaming about the accolades not yet written for the books we have yet to publish. They don’t pretend Oprah, or Reese, are bickering over who gets to choose our memoir for their book club.
It takes a lot of time — time I could be spending writing — thinking about how I would cast the Netflix adaptation of my story.
The secret to my writing career has been my commitment to maintaining a sacred writing practice. Morning is when the muse visits me. Morning is when I am fresh, and the blank page beckons more than taunts me. To write, really write, I discipline myself to say no to all things before noon.
Obviously, I will make the occasional exception. Yesterday, for instance, I had carpet installed from 8 until 2. In my defense, it was the only time they could come. Also, last week, when the disposal broke, the guy came first thing the next day. So those writing days were shot.
Sometimes I need an emergency hair appointment, and Isa, who works magic with cut and color, only works in the morning. So that’s a writing-day exception I have to make every 5 weeks or so, depending on how bad my roots look.
A few other things have to be in place before I write in the morning. The bed needs to be made, the dishwasher needs to be emptied, the laundry needs to be running. Also, I tend to be more open to creativity if all the bills are paid and my desk is cleared. Emails count as mail, at least to me, so when I sit down, before I write, I get through those.
I do like a fresh pot of coffee. Does that even count as a pre-writing step? Probably not.
Oh. I also need complete silence. No TV. No lawnmower, no leaf blower, and definitely no garbage truck, beeping methodically as it wends its way, slowly, up the street. Tuesday is garbage day, so forget writing on Tuesdays.
As part of the commitment to my art, I ignore my phone between 7 AM – Noon. I’m writing, I’ve told my friends. Unavailable.
If they forget, however, and I happen to be stuck in my process, I will occasionally answer. I should also admit that every now and then, I check my texts and respond. Communication is part of being a writer.
Monday – Wednesday, I find doing the crossword can help get me into a creative flow. Thursday’s and Friday’s crosswords are too hard, so my rule is only allowing myself to do the puzzle no more than three days a week. My writing time is sacred, I remind myself.
I can’t say enough about having a daily word-count target. Let me repeat that. I can’t say enough about having a daily word-count target. As I glance at today’s total, I think it bears repeating: I cannot say enough enough enough about having a daily word target.
Being a writer, a writer who thinks big thoughts, and has the discipline to sit down and get the words onto the page, is hard.
That’s why I like to reward myself, after a solid fifteen minutes or so of writing, with a little stress-relief. Online shopping is, from my experience, a great form of stress relief. You don’t have to buy those shearling lined Birkenstocks, although they would be comfortable. Also, it doesn’t cost anything to look at cashmere sweaters. Most of the time, you can even order and return, free of charge, in case you just want to see how you look in a muted rose oversized boyfriend’s cardigan. While you’re blowing off steam, make sure to read the return policy written by someone else.
Remember: reading is part of a writer’s job!
By the time lunch rolls around, I’m always exhausted. It’s a lot of work, being a writer, and I haven’t even mentioned the energy it takes to envy, and curse, all the writer friends I know who are getting book deals. The toxic energy of jealousy takes so much out of me, it’s almost like working a double shift.
Non-writers have no appreciation for what goes into the writing life.
That’s why when my fiancé and I sit down to dinner, I hate it when he asks, “So, tell me what you did all day.”
I’m a writer. I’m very busy.
Sally Schwartz has worked for over nine years as a syndicated columnist for The Chicago Tribune, where, until recently, she published under the name Sally Schwartz Higginson. (Sally’s editorial note: Don’t ever change your name.) Sally has written a humorous memoir titled My Sister Betsy’s Guide to Life, and has an agent who believes she can sell it.
I’ve never understood this love of daytime pajama wearing. A shower starts the day right. Then you put on clean clothes, although they could be comfortable clean clothes.
Who said anything about not showering? I love a morning shower. And a fresh pair of pjs, or sweats, or other elastic/comfort clothing. Comfort does not trump clean, for the record. Both can happily co-exist.
I agree. Shower and then put on the loungewear (I say as I sit in my tank top and yoga pants–yes, the same outfit as yesterday, but the dog doesn’t mind).
You laughed. And you’re not related to me. Thank you!
Merci beaucoup for making me laugh and make the decision that I will for sure write until noon today! Ha! I often tell myself I can’t turn on the t.v. until dinner/supper time. You can probably guess how well THAT works! I love insights into writing.
Knowing somewhere, someone laughed reminds me I should stop wasting time and return to my sacred practice. Daytime TV isn’t my vice; replying to blog posts? That’s another issue altogether.
Reblogged this on garyskitchen.net.
You reblogged me. I’m blushing.
Your post was laugh out loud fabulous and deserves to be reblogged. Stop blushing.
Oh Sally, you DO make me chuckle!! Write on! Hope to see you some AFTERNOON soon!
I love me some support from my original writing class! Thank you, Cathy, and if you ever venture back to the frozen tundra we call home, I’m pretending I got paid for this post and the first latte will be on me.
Love this! Very funny and on point!
My third load of laundry is going. Dishwasher’s unloaded. Just a few more emails and I’ll be ready for either writing or lunch. Lunch is sounding good.
What’s the protocol? Do I keep typing thank you notes? I think I will. If someone reads me and comments, it seems the least I can do, right? Thank you for LOL-ing!
I felt I was reading about me! Bed must be made, bills paid, emails answered, no noise…everything in its place, including me. I feel your pain and your creativity. Thanks for your ‘Wednesday Wit’!
My fiancé keeps telling me there’s medication for people like us. And yet, he appreciates the tidy house, the coffee brewing at dawn, the folded laundry… and of course, the giant royalty checks from my published work.
I LOVE THIS! I can relate to every word, especially as I sit in front of my computer, in my PJs, scrolling through my phone while revving up to work on the writing/editing project that’s glaring at me from my computer screen. Too bad we don’t live closer; we could procrastinate together.
Ha! The $$$s are the lovely bow on the package. And now I must go clean and tidy up before leaving for 10 days! Same for you?
Love this piece!
I had no idea how much I needed this external feedback. Thank you!
Thanks for some early morning snorts. I can relate to everything except the stretchy pants: I still put on a pair of jeans every day. I worry that once I go there, I may never come back. Plus, I have an extreme aversion to cameltoe!
An early morning snort might be the highest form of praise. Also: Cameltoe haunts me, too. I own Camel No, and a number of other cleverly named products to combat this particular bipartisan problem.
Delightful when I’m eating a biscotti and having my second cup and looking at my email where a note from my editor might, just might appear. I dont’ want to miss it.
Reblogged this on A CaireneGirl's Blog.
Utterly flattered to be reblogged.
One of my grad professors told me, “Suzanne, there’s nothing on the internet that will make you a better writer.” Yet here we are.
thought that my LOL was original but clearly many agreed.
your Brevity is hilarious and so relatable. thank you for the levity.
I started reading because your title resonated, not realizing that I would not only be entertained, but that I would also be forgiven for all my sins of not writing when I think I should be writing. The world is just one giant trap of distractions, and it’s good to know that even writers who make money are not safe from it all. Thanks for sharing. I’m guessing you also find time to write. –Nancy
Distractions everywhere… unless I have a deadline. I cannot say enough (enough enough) about a deadline!
Hi Sally! I came for Mark Ford, who recommended reading his text on the blog. I’m not a writer yet, but I’m only a few steps away on this journey. I loved your text. Success and hugs from Brazil. =)
So glad you loved my piece. Good luck Kelly!