I wrote my first (as yet unpublished) novel out longhand in notebooks back when we lived without electricity. Then I’d take the notebooks and my laptop to a café and type it all in. I had a full time job back then and I wrote in the mornings and evenings (and okay, sometimes during staff meetings). When I sat down to write my second book (soon to be published as a young adult novel), I had electricity. But after writing longhand, I had a hard time switching to the computer. My partner talked me into trying. Once I got the hang of composing at the keyboard (I think a whole different part of your brain is involved than when you write longhand) the second book went much faster than the first. I had given up my job and wrote full time. Well, I was building a house, our house, but still, I got to stay home and write when I wasn’t putting up walls, framing windows and doors. My third novel (also unpublished) and my fourth (Promise Not To Tell) were written when our little house was done for the most part, and I devoted all my spare time to them, often writing for eight hours a day.
Now, I stay at home with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Zella. Back when I was pregnant, in my days of blissful ignorance, I imagined myself getting a ton of writing done while the wee one played quietly at my feet. As anyone with kids (or even anyone who has spent time around kids) can tell you, this is not how it works. My daughter is not big on entertaining herself. When I sit down at the computer, she crawls up on my lap, pounds on the keyboard and begs, “Mommy! Play with me!!! Pleeease! No typing!”
So that’s my number one distraction. Now, let’s talk about location. When we left our tiny hand built house and moved into this house, one of the big pluses was how much more space we’d have. I would have an office with a door that closes. My own desk. Bookshelves. My little writing sanctuary. The office was my family’s present to me for having finally arrived… my first book was going to be published, so it was time to get serious and have my own space. I took great care in picking out a paint color. I decorated with inspirational art (which for me means skulls, gravestone rubbings, and a lovely collage I did of a man having his eye pecked out by a crow). I put up bulletin boards. I bought myself a new desk, printer stand and file cabinet. But the office thing hasn’t worked out as planned either. Last summer, one of our closest friends was going through a rough time and ended up homeless. We threw a futon into the office and he’s been there pretty much ever since. We’re happy to have him – he keeps the coffee pot full, cleans, and watches Zella. My desk was moved into the living room, right smack in the center of everything.
I have learned to write wherever and whenever I can; in whatever tiny blocks of time I can chisel out of my day — while my daughter is contentedly “cooking” up a feast of plastic food or watching My Neighbor Totoro (and to think I was once one of those parents who SWORE my kid would never watch TV until she was at least five…). I get up early. I stay up late. I drink lots of coffee. I do my best to ignore the dishes, the laundry, the phone, emails, my favorite blogs, E-Bay, MySpace, and just write as hard and fast as I can for as long as I’m able. When I’m really lucky, like right now, my partner is able to watch Zella for an hour or two before she goes off to work or needs the computer for school. Or our friend who lives in the office has the day off and can spend a few hours with her.
I have pens, notebooks and index cards all over the house so that if inspiration strikes when I’m in the middle of helping to put a diaper on a stuffed monkey, I can (much to my daughter’s irritation) stop to jot it down. I do a lot of my outlining and problem solving this way.
I think that no matter what your situation, if you’re a writer, you’ll find a way to write. (Think of it… I wrote an entire novel with notebooks and pens, often by oil lamp!) No matter how strapped for time you think you are, there’s always a way to squeeze an extra hour or two (or more if you’re lucky) out of your day. Turn off the TV. Get your butt in the chair. Go on, the dishes can wait.