It took six years for Enchanted to go from being a published short story to a faced-out hardcover at Barnes & Noble. I had the luxury of dropping the manuscript whenever I wanted to write a short story in Excel, or scold Dark-Hunters, or help my friend Janet with an art show. But when I finally made the push to finish the novel, I drove to Starbucks every evening after work and didn’t go home until I had written at least 1000 words. Some days, I only had coffee for dinner.
That doesn’t really fly when you have a family.
First of all, the only decent Starbucks with a sitting area is 5 miles from the house, and it is PACKED night and day. Going there is a commitment in which I must stalk one of the oversized chairs by the fireplace, and then pray that whoever sits next to me is not of the Very Loud And Keeps Looking At You To See If You Also Think Their Story Is Amusing Because Doesn’t Everyone variety.
(I know what those people are like. I’m one of them.)
My apartment complex has a “clubhouse”, which includes a fairy large room with giant windows where people generally wait before the apartment folks to drive them around in a golf cart. Of course, 1.) they just remodeled it so there’s a good chance it looks nothing like the lovely faux-Victorian sitting room it used to and 2.) My apartment complex was sold to a new company and they’re running it into the ground. Not sure that’s the best option either…but it’s an option.
Because writing AT HOME is virtually impossible.
Ideally, when one writes at home, one has an office. It is possible for one not to have an office if one has a room with a decently comfy sofa (for the laptop) and a side table (for your drink of choice). (Don’t write at the kitchen table–it’s ergonomically disastrous, and your body will not thank you for it.) This room must also be decently tidy, or else every time you look up from the computer to finish a sentence, you will be DISTRACTED BY EVERYTHING.
Because the Fairy Godboyfriend and I share his daughters with their mom half the week, it’s a bit easier, but they’re still teenagers and therefore still pack the entropic force of an F5 twister. When one lives alone, one’s mess is one’s own. When one lives with three other people, this mess is compounded four-fold, and is somehow still your responsibility to clean up, as you are the one who works from home (and has yet to make as much as your SO’s dayjob).
And because you’re not raking in the dough yet, you don’t have the luxury of that huge house on the water with a skylit room over the garage. You are stuck in a one-bedroom apartment that is in a constant state of post-apocalyptic disaster.
What you must–MUST–train yourself to do is IGNORE THESE THINGS.
“Oh, I’ll just hire a maid,” you say. I said that too. But the house actually has to be CLEAN before the maid comes. Yes, she can dust and do the toilets, but she can’t vacuum if you have all your book tour stuff strewn all over the living room floor, and she has no idea where (or if) the piles of books all around the room are meant for the bookshelves, giveaways, storage, or sales. She doesn’t know which swag goes in which box, or which pens she should never put away because those are your signing pens.
But you are not allowed to drop everything and clean your house, because you have a book to write, and NOW YOU HAVE A DEADLINE, a real one, and you need to crank out some words. But the boxes from publishers don’t stop coming, and the teenagers don’t stop eating, and the mess is being made faster than you can clean it up and AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
Ignoring your house is one of the most difficult things a writer must do.
You need to have three things in your house for your family at all times:
1.) Clean laundry (which is the easiest thing to do, since you can throw in a load and see how many words you can write before putting it in the dryer)
2.) toilet paper
3.) bread and cheese for sandwiches
The rest of it, you simply have to accept, is going to look like hell for…well…as long as it takes. Your family will probably not eat a healthy meal on your watch. You have to be okay with that.
The coping mechanism I’ve used most recently is to pretend that I am under the weather. When you’re sick, nothing gets done, right? You let yourself off the hook. Well, it’s the same kind of thing here. You have to let that part of yourself off the hook while the writer part of yourself reigns free.
Beware of two dangerous things:
1.) The “pick up one thing per day” deal. You may make this deal with yourself, but it’s a dangerous one. Because there is SO MUCH to do, and one thing can EASILY turn into twelve when you’re trying to distract yourself from Chapter 9.
2.) “But my kids and significant other can take care of things while I can’t.” That way lies madness. Especially when you have teenagers. Do not set yourself up for disappointment AND the hurt feelings of your family members, because that only leads to a stressful environment you won’t be able to write in at all.
You have to be zen about this and let it all go. You will clean the tub when you get in it one morning and it looks like a horror movie, and you will throw away the green thing in the back of your refrigerator when you’re foraging for something to distract you from Chapter 12. But you MUST LET THE HOUSEWORK GO TO HELL.
This is the ultimate sacrifice.
The penultimate sacrifice: EMAIL.
You guys got any other excuses/coping mechanisms/magical spells/suggestions you’d like to share that might help?