“Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.” – Stephen King
Well, I’m screwed.
Four to six hours a day. If I had four to six hours a day to read and write, I’d probably be getting ready to publish my tenth novel later this year. I’d have finished reading my hundredth book. Oh, and I’d probably be well-rested, too, in this imaginary land of gumdrops and virgin-sniffing unicorns. But unfortunately, I don’t have four to six hours available to scoop out of my day and set aside to my literary education.
Most days, I might have have an hour. Maybe two, if I’m lucky. And that’s a total crammed together from increments stolen between loads of laundry and poopy diapers and trips to the grocery store. My reading is done mostly while I’m in the bathroom (LET MOMMY PEE ALONE FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE) or in that last fifteen minutes before I pass out in bed beside my equally exhausted husband. Occasionally, I’ll steal a few extra minutes of reading or writing while at work, but usually when I find myself away from the house with a block of ten whole minutes at my disposal, I tend to spend it staring off into space while shoving a candy bar into my mouth. Of course, that’s ten minutes I probably should’ve spent writing or reading instead. My apologies, Mr. King.
Even this blog post was put off to the last minute, delayed by dishes and schoolwork and phone calls, and I’m now scrambling to write it while my youngest child naps and my older children are distracted by a cartoon on Netflix. (It’s an educational show, or at least I tell myself that while I’m parked in front of the computer and attempting to pound out this post in the twenty-seven minutes allotted to me by the Public Broadcasting System.)
If I didn’t have children, if I didn’t work outside the home, if I didn’t homeschool, if I had a nanny or if my husband were home all day taking care of the house while I camped out in the garage to dedicate my life to writing, then perhaps I could hit that four to six hour goal with ease. But my husband is gone twelve hours a day, and I can’t order pizza every night, and unfortunately I do like to spend time with my kids on occasion, even when I know I could be writing instead. I know, I know. What is WRONG with me?
This is when you have to take the advice that other authors give with a metric buttload of salt. Their lives aren’t yours, so when they say things along the lines of “Do this or you fail at everything and might as well return to the cave that is your parents’ basement” it’s not always possible to apply it to your own existence.
Did Mr. King have to abandon his writing streak every fifteen minutes to nurse a baby or pry another one of his children out of a headlock? Did he work in the evenings and then come home to make meatloaf at ten o’clock at night? Was he up five times a night with a teething toddler? Possibly. But it’s doubtful.
One day, if I ever become a successful (i.e. can pay for more than a bag of tacos with my earnings) author, I may be able to lay claim to that coveted four to six hours of writing and reading time. I might earn enough to quit working, maybe even enough that my husband could cut back on his own work hours. And one day, my kids will be old enough to make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I hope. But until then, I have to snatch my time from wherever I can. I have to ignore Mr. King’s words and not allow them to make me feel guilty for failing to read and write as much as he does.
For now, I write as much as possible, as much as my life and my work and my children will allow. Days may go by without my penning a single word, or when I do finally get an opportunity to get some real writing done, I realize that I’d much rather have a bath, or a nap, or watch that movie that came out three years ago and I haven’t seen yet because of my life and my work and my children. But no matter what, no matter the distractions I deal with every day, writing will always be there. My desire to create stories will never go away, no matter how much time I spend getting my kids ready for dance class. I’m a writer, even if it’s only for ten minutes at a time.