I have been writing as long as I can remember. It always held a special part of me; the spirit of my secret world. That little spark catching my attention, nudging me to the seclusion of my room. There I would write until my arm cramped from the vigorous whirl of chicken scratches only I could decipher. I was then, and still am an advocate for the old fashioned pen and pad. In between these childhood quests of creation, I would often imagine what my life as an adult writer would be like.
I would be wildly successful of course, but still maintain my delicate insecurities we creative types are supposed to harbor. I imagined sitting by a glowing fire, drinking wine and dining on fascinating conversation of all things essential to the modern creative mind with other artists du jour.
I would envision vacations on the east coast, taking in the salty breezes of ocean air. Closing my eyes, the scent of water would fill my swelling nostrils as I breathed it in deep. I thought about how I would bask in the glow of the sun and the warmth of my latest rave review, while I wrote my anticipated follow-up novel and dug my toes in the sand.
I pictured snuggling into a corner of a local coffee shop during the winter months. Nestling amongst a dozen other aspiring writers. I would write fueled by inspiration and too much coffee. We diligent coffee house writers, pouring our jittery little souls into our manuscripts, with the screams of a milk steamer as our background music. Of course I was picturing 1950’s Paris café, not so much Starbucks circa 2010.
I admit these fantasies are all a bit cliché. But this was what I thought the leisurely life of a great American author was like. Every picture I had ever seen of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Plath and more only seemed to emulate this. It was lovely.
Fast forward a few, uh hem, years and well….I don’t like wine, live nowhere near a beach, and the background music in my local coffee shop is excessively loud cell phone conversations instead of the rhythmic click clack of keyboard keys. And in most cases the coffee I rely on is cold before I manage to get halfway through it.
I spend weeks working in five minute spurts in between fights over cowboy hats, diaper changes, meals, and play dates. The prose I toil over is read aloud to an unresponsive wall covered in Crayola stick figures instead of contemporary art. I never gain the confidence of that beach dwelling writer I envisioned. My opinions of the world and its affairs fall onto the tiny ears of my 3 year old. She listens intently, her blue eyes wide and head shaking ‘yes’. But just as I start to think I am instilling some impression of smart, opinionated womanhood onto my precious little girl, she usually follows with something along the lines of, “Mommy, I got boogies.”
Instead of swanky coffee houses I have fast-food playrooms. That’s okay. It’s the writing that feeds my soul. Not the location or circumstance. I have learned the value of like-minded friends. That is one thing a writer must have. Otherwise it can be lonely, and suddenly, life a lá Hemingway doesn’t sound so glamorous anymore.
The important thing is that we make time to write. I emphasize the word make, because if we are always trying to find time to write, we will be on the hunt forever. I used to look for time to write, like I was going to find it hiding under the bed or in the closet. There isn’t any more stashed away, waiting for us to count to 10 and start looking. Whether it’s on the commute to work, sitting on the toilette while the kids take a bath, or next to a life size plastic clown surrounded by the echo of a dozen screaming banshees, er uh, children…it doesn’t matter. It’s not exactly the elegant lifestyle I imagined I would be living by now. That’s okay, and then sometimes it’s not. I know I will get there eventually. The key is to never lose site of the art, the love of the craft. I have to believe I AM the writer, to DO the writing, to HAVE the life of a writer I imagined. Even if that means my biggest fans still pee their pants.