All the work preparing a house for the market has left me scant time for writing, but I do get into my writing room at least once a day. My first book is out there, being read—hopefully bringing great enjoyment to those who discover it—but I never wanted to write just one book.
I am about three-quarters of the way through the second manuscript, a story already four times longer than the first, and very different too. When I am not writing it, I am often thinking of it while I paint walls or while I box infrequently-used items for the storage facility, or chop onions for a recipe. If I am struck with a good idea for a character, I’ll stop what I’m doing to scribble story notes on the backs of old supermarket receipts, and then shove those bits of paper into my jeans pockets for later, for when I have my daily writing time.
I could never have done this as a younger woman—keep doing a non-writing activity when even the slightest inspiration struck! 🙂 When I was younger, I thought if I didn’t heed the call of the Muses–and immediately–all would be lost. Yes, there are times when I have to drop everything and get to my computer so I can write out that “perfect” line or phrase or paragraph in context—but at the busiest times of my life, I’ve learned that I don’t have to fear the Muses turning their backs on me, jealous of the time I’m spending away from them. I have found I can simply jot notes most the time, get my other stuff done, and stick with my writing schedule.
When I was younger, I thought a writer was only a writer if she was mercurial and focused inward. When I married, and then again, when I became pregnant with my first child, I got the inkling that, up to that point, I might have been living in a bit of a fantasy world (just a teeny little bit! 🙂 After my son was born, that inkling became the realization of FACT, and it hit me like a bronzed baby shoe! Children have the unique capacity for giving us the greatest gift: they offer us the opportunity to be released from the prison of self-centeredness, and there isn’t a person in the world more self-centered than a twenty-something English Lit student who thinks she will absolutely die if she isn’t published, like, yesterday!
Writing should be an extension of life, not a replacement for life, and only when we make time for the important people in our lives does our writing truly have meaning. We can set writing schedules, but we must remember that Life is People, and people are inconvenient, and people matter, and furthermore, you can’t write books if you never spend time with people in the real world, if you don’t fulfill obligations, if you don’t get the dinner on the table and wash the laundry and paint the kitchen when it needs it. Believe me, the Muses will still be there when you get back.
When I was younger, I saw the Muses as tyrants, but I grew up; and after years of writing around the baby’s feeding time, the toddler’s nap time, the teenager’s soccer schedule, the baskets of laundry, and the sweet, late-night conversations with my husband, I can say with surety that the Muses (beautiful, powerful, inspiring, spiritual though they may be) will actually wait for temporal old me! They will rest upon Mount Helicon while I attend to those things which cannot and should not be brushed off. They will wait while we prepare to begin a new phase of our lives elsewhere in the world. And they will not get all piqued about it either.
This is what is happening now, the Sisters seem to say. Life changes, circumstances reform schedules, trials transform perspectives. Go with it. Embrace it all. We’ll be right here when you’re ready.
by Jean Foster Akin