When I am unable to write, I begin to become discouraged and then to despair. I have to write. It’s my talent, my calling. If I do not write regularly, I feel I am not fulfilling my life’s function. And when I speak of my writing, I do not include the articles that I write solely for money. I am talking about my creative work, whether it is novels, short stories, memoirs, book reviews, or essays.
My goal, my desire, my dream for years now has been to do my creative work full time. For that to happen it has to be able to support me and those who depend on me. Alas, although I receive income from the sale of short stories and from book royalties, this income is far from sufficient to meet our needs. The article work must continue, at least for the time being.
The problem is, the article work saps my creative strength. It is still writing, even though I am not writing what I choose. Over the past several years, I have tried a number of things to be able to get in enough article writing to survive, but also to not neglect my creative work.
In Yakima about three years ago, I decided to try to get up an hour earlier and write a thousand words before beginning the mercenary work of the day. That lasted a week or two before I collapsed in exhaustion. Then I tried getting up normal time, which was already very early, and writing a thousand words before I began the day’s work of article writing, but I found that the creative work took up too much time, and I was not able to write enough articles to pay the bills.
For a time, perhaps several weeks, I stopped the creative work completely, but as I mentioned above, this got me down. I eventually settled on the solution of writing at least five hundred words in the late evening after I had finished everything else. That’s the schedule I have been keeping for the past few years, and out of it I have got at least three novels, several novellas, and numerous short stories and essays.
However, it was never my ideal. Sometimes I have been just too tired, and I have had to forego writing the five hundred words. Sometimes I had to proofread, or do layout, or market stories, and these activities had to take up that time at the end of the day.
I was out walking just a few days before the close of 2016, wondering what I could do to improve my situation, to get closer to my goals, when it hit me. Why not try writing the five hundred words first thing in the morning instead of in the evening? There is a vast difference between writing five hundred and a thousand words. Five hundred words I can manage in the first great mental rush of the day, while when I write a thousand I have to take breaks, rest, and begin again several times. My ideal life schedule is to put my creative writing first. Perhaps I cannot write a thousand or fifteen hundred words a day, which I would probably do if the creative work supported us better, but I can at least do five hundred words.
And so I have been doing since the beginning of the year, since January 2nd. I have missed a day or two, primarily when I had to stay at the hospital overnight for surgery, but for the most part I have been keeping up with this new schedule seven days a week. Although usually I manage just over five hundred words, at times I have written over eight or nine hundred. It’s thrilling for me to write my stories when my mind is at its freshest and sharpest. I get in my minimum word count, and then no matter what else happens in the day, that at least is done. In the evenings, I can still do the proofreading, marketing, and other extra work that goes into the creative process, and if I am tired, I can leave that work aside, knowing that my basic word count is already finished, and spend a little extra time with my sons. I still have the ultimate goal of doing nothing but my creative work, but this has turned into a great victory, a great forward step. I hope I can keep it up.
In conclusion, I say to other writers: Be fluid, be flexible. If something doesn’t work, try something else. The main thing is to never give up. Never.