I could have written a book by now, except that I have a life. Of course. If I didn’t have a life, I would have nothing to write about. And there is the artist’s dilemma.
I want to create something spectacular, but while I’m trying to craft my opening paragraph, the phone is ringing, and my family is asking for my attention and I can’t stop thinking about that thing that happened the other day at work. I set goals for myself: I will write this many words or this many pages or this many hours. And time after time I fail to meet those goals.
I think, oh well, I’ll write twice as much tomorrow. But tomorrow comes and I write barely enough to feel like I’ve done something.
The funny thing is, I like writing. I love it in fact. I fall asleep thinking about my characters. I scribble notes while I’m at the gym. I miss plot points in TV shows because something the actors said reminds me of something in my story and I start daydreaming about it.
Why then, can’t I just sit down, shut up, and write?
Real life gets in my way. It is the rare writer who gets to be nothing but a writer all day, every day. Most of us play dozens of different roles. We have real jobs, and families with spouses and children in them. We volunteer, we play basketball, we hang out with our friends. We’re just normal people, with an addiction to dreaming up worlds and pasting them to the page.
Writing is a quiet, lonely task. I envy my friends who are musicians. Who can create by gathering in a large group and making a lot of wonderful noise. No writer has ever stood on a street corner, typing madly, and gotten money thrown into their laptop case, though I would gladly empty my pockets for anyone with the guts to try it.
Writing is a solitary job and though we may gather in critique groups to share our work and whine about plot structure. Ultimately the real work is done behind closed doors, in a lonely room, with nothing but our dreams for company. It is hard, hard to turn your back on real life and enter into seclusion. Hard to tell your family “Go away. I need room to dream.” They may not understand. And you will wonder if this pile of pages you are working on is worth solitary confinement.
Much as I would like to lock myself away and write forever. I know I also have a life. I want a life. And my life gives me the fuel to keep the dreams alive. The best I can hope for is a balance between life and dreams, and the self control to close my office door, the discipline I need to sit down, shut up and write something.