Writing: My other, other job
I assume and hope I am not unique in the writing world.
First, my name is not really Louise Ross, but I write under this name. I write under a pen name because the majority of my life is spent being someone vastly different than a writer. I’m an attorney by trade, and my “real” name is used to advertise and promote. How confusing would it be to google your attorney and find a fantasy writer, or to open up an article by your favorite fantasy writer only to be confused when it was a bunch of legal mumble. No, it is better all around for me to have an alias, and when I look at it like a superhero, that makes my writer side - Super Writer. I’m cool with that.
Anyway, the point is, my job takes 50-75 hours a week of my time, and I choose to liquify my writing time and pour it in the cracks left by work and life necessities. What does that look like?
My day starts at 5:30 am. The first alarm goes off. If I am being a good kid, I am up at the 5:30 am alarm, take a shower, get dressed, and take care of the dog before the 6:00 am alarm sounds. If I am being lazy, I get up at the 6:00 am alarm or somewhere between the two alarms. Because I have slept in, I skip the shower. By the time the 6:15 alarm goes off, I am out the door and headed to work.
Side note: I have a friend who is telling me how useful morning writing time is. I wish I could do that. My brain works really well in the morning. Unfortunately, my anxiety works better than my brain in the morning, and I wake up worried about whether I am ready for the day at work. If I can speed up getting out of the house in any way, I’m using the time for work.
Work starts before 7 am. This doesn’t mean the writing disappears. Some days I sneak extra restroom breaks so I can check if anything important has happened on Scribophile, and on days I am at the courthouse, I may get to leave the courthouse an hour early which is not early enough to get back to the office and be productive. On court days I may get off work a little early, but on an office day, my next non-work time is 2 pm. 2 pm is lunch time.
Then I write. Sometimes. Lunch can be a variety of things. I might be hungry. -- Ok. I’m always hungry, and most of the time I drive through fast food and eat. Most of the time that only takes half my lunch hour. Yes, I get a full hour for lunch, and I know that makes me spoiled. Sometimes you just have to get away from your desk. When I don’t have an errand to run in the remaining lunch hour, I carry a 2-1 computer in my purse. Yes, my purse is that big. It remains charged, and I can pull it out and work on writing for 30 minutes before going back to work.
Writing on lunch time is complicated. For me, it is useless time unless I stopped writing the prior day at a really exciting section. If I stopped writing in the middle of something exciting, then I can pull out the laptop and jump back into the scene. If I did not stop somewhere exciting, I usually stare at the screen blankly or end up re-reading what I already wrote trying to get into the story again. Thus to get writing done at lunch, I must: remember to charge my 2-1, remember to put it in my purse, make sure I have my external hard drive with me, have purposely finished in a scene where I still knew what I wanted to say (or have a specific project in mind like filling out an outline), and plan my lunch so I have extra time. Needless to say, writing at work only happens about once every two weeks. It’s enough to keep the hope alive, but I don’t get a lot of words done at work.
Work ends somewhere between 3:30 and 7 pm. If I was at the courthouse and am released near 3:30, I am going home. If I am at the office and the last client doesn’t leave until 5:15 and I still have to clear the immediate items off my desk, then it can be a 7 pm night.
The drive home takes 40 minutes. More if I hit rush hour. (Sometimes working late means the drive is shorter, and I prefer that in the bitter cold winter.) Most of the time, I can convince my husband he does not want to cook, and I bring us fast food home on the drive. This eliminates all but 20 minutes of meal time when I get home. Sometimes, he wants to cook or eat out. If that happens, I can expect to lose an hour of time.
I go to bed at 9 pm on an early night (9 pm to 5:30 am being 8.5 hours of possible sleep) and 10 pm most of the time (only 7.5 hours of possible sleep, sad face).
So when do I get my writing time? Well, I don’t on Thursday. Thursday is quilting day, and I go from work to my sister’s house and I quilt. I don’t get writing time if I don’t get out of the office before 7:00-7:30. By the time I get home and eat its already just after 9 pm. On those nights, I get my computer out to “write”, check Scribophile and social media, and it’s time for bed.
But -- On nights I leave work before 7 and particularly on days I leave the courthouse around 3:30, I might have time from 5:00 to 10:00 to do whatever I want. In those precious 3 to 5 hours that life gives me, maybe I’ll write.
And when I write, here’s the ritual:
- Before I can write, I have to check Scribophile and social media. I have a game that runs in the background of my computer, and I have to check it. This usually eats at least the first 45 minutes of any writing time.
- I open my writing and have to figure out what I was doing. There’s another 10 minutes.
- On an ideal day, I write in silence. I need silence. I don’t multitask. If the radio or tv is on, I find myself listening to/watching it. Or my story ends up with random dialogue/lyrics because I had them on. Or I have to get up and dance. If I am going to get something done, I want silence.
- If my husband is home, he will have the tv going. I am mega distracted by the tv. If I stay in the tv room, I find myself glancing up to see the pictures that go with the sound every few minutes. If I leave the living room, at every commercial break, my husband comes to find me and see what I am doing. So then I look up every 5-10 minutes. It’s a trade off.
- Oh and every time I look away from my work, it’s a ritual. I click through my social media tabs and Scribophile to see if I missed anything I can’t live without before getting back to work.
My best guess, out of the 1-5 hours I have to write most nights, I actually write somewhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours.
- Oh, and then there is the dog. He’s a good dog in general, but he does feel the need to lay his nose on my escape key and commandeer my left hand for pettings. Here’s a gratuitous picture of Hanz, the doodad, while I write this.
Nights where I open my computer and never touch the writing or nights where I don’t even pull up my current project are not writing nights to me. I get about 2-3 non-writing nights a week, but my 2016 goal is to limit that to less than 1 on a weekly basis. That means I need to figure out how to change Thursdays.
For me, writing is not easy. Words do not flow like majestic waterfalls. Hell, words are barely drips squeezed through frozen pipes most of the time. I write lean and most of the time I add more than 20% of a draft’s volume on revision. I try to keep projects in different stages going. Right now I have a piece I am querying, a piece in revision, one in draft form, and a few outlines I am working on. There always seems to be more projects than writing time.
I write because I love it. I write because when the job gets stressful, and I want to change the world or kill someone, I can write it out. I write because spinning fabrications is much more fun but at work I am stuck with the facts. I write because the third grader who loved unicorns and wanted to crawl through a tree into a foreign world still lives in my heart and head.
And I write. Even when there is little to no time. Even when I should be doing laundry or dishes. Even when there is no agent interest.
I write. So even though work and life take up most of my time, I am a writer.
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And that's Louise Ross's life! It's so fun seeing how different and unique we all are. It proves that there is no right way to be a writer.
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