When you set aside a block of time to write, somebody will get sick. Be it child or pet, someone in your household will require a trip to the doctor, special, healing, time-consuming, lovingly-made food, medications, popsicles and another trip to the store for cough drops and Gatorade, and lots of extra attention. The aforementioned illness will unfailingly occur the morning of your beautiful, coveted day off. Just as you power on your laptop.
Approaching your “writing time” typed in bold caps into your calendar, if the inhabitants of your house remain healthy, then an appliance, or vehicle, or perhaps both, will decide to take a shit. The furnace or air conditioner are prime candidates, as their refusal to function will actually affect your ability to write, should you decide to shirk your adultness and try anyway. Alternately, it will be your vehicle that dies instead of a major appliance. Initially this seems good: stuck at home, no way to run errands? Write! Wrong. Call the tow truck, deal with the mechanic, worry about costs, call day job and pick up extra hours. There goes writing time.
On the rare occasion you finally find yourself at your writing desk, fingers poised over the keyboard, hot cup of coffee by your side, no appliances or cars acting up, no sick children or animals in your midst, you are ready to find your bliss. You’re going to knock out 5K today. Maybe even 7! You re-read what you wrote last… days or even weeks ago … then back up a little more, just to refresh your memory and get the thought processes going. You glance at the clock and realize an hour has passed. Wait, no, a whole hour and a half of your precious, limited writing time has passed. So, maybe today is a 3K day.
You type those first words of the new chapter. Writing is a glorious thing. The literary gods smile upon you. The narrative flows, the dialogue is great. You get all the way to the end of the chapter and sit back to read while you enjoy your second cup of coffee. You realize your main character has just gone completely off the rails. Your very loose outline has her sleeping with her best friend’s brother in chapter ten. You’ve just completed chapter seven and she Hates the guy. With a capital H. And not in a contrary, flirty kind of way. Like, real, bratty, tangible Hate. And to be fair, now that you’re re-reading what you’ve written, the guy is kind of a tool. He was so cute and funny and charming in your head. What the hell happened to him? Time’s up, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board another day.
You open your smartphone calendar and type in those sparkly, exciting, intimidating words for your next day off (next week): “Writing Time.” It feels like tempting fate to even make it official in your calendar. Kind of like remarking, halfway through a quiet shift at work, on what an easy day it’s been. But still, we have to try. You spend the rest of the day and evening rehashing the manuscript so far in your head. It sucks. You are really convinced it sucks. What is wrong with you, thinking you can craft an entire story with characters who feel real and a plot with no holes and a deeper meaning that will resonate with some future reader and feed your hungry little writer’s soul? You must be delusional. You’re a hack, a wannabe writer.
Late at night, while food on dinner dishes hardens into an impenetrable crust and laundry lies wrinkling at the bottom of the clothes basket, you pull up the manuscript once more on your laptop. You can’t help it. You have to know if it’s really that bad. If there is anything you can do fix it, or if you need to scrap the day’s work and start over. Or maybe if you should just rip the cord out of the wall and fling the thing, unfinished works in progress and all, off the deck onto the pavement. Be done with it, because, after all, you’re certain it’s all crap anyway. But wait. Did you really write that sentence? And … your main character … well no wonder she behaved the way she did. Look how well that scene ties into what happened to her back in chapter two. And oh wow. The best friend’s brother is SO not a tool. He’s deep and wounded and reacting to your main character’s own baggage. It all makes sense. Okay, so you don’t suck. You actually kind of rock.
So what if it’s 2 am and the kids will wake you up in 4 hours for breakfast – carpool - school – work? You have to finish this one section. You can’t stop. The words are there, coursing from your head through your fingertips, and they’re perfect, and this is why we do it. For the pure joy of the thing (Stephen King knows this truth too).