There’s Always Time to Write

Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Apology incoming. I’ve given in, and decided to postpone releasing Episode 10 until next Wednesday. You know what I was saying about life getting in the way? It continued to get in the way. It sounds like a feeble excuse to my ears – after all, there’s always time to write, right?

Definitely. I’ve been eking words out in spare moments at work. I’ve stayed up far too late on days that I shouldn’t in order to eke out some more. I found a few hundred words while squinting at my laptop during the long car journey home yesterday. I even managed about a hundred once I reached home, before the headache kicked in. I got up early this morning to make a last ditch effort on the thing – because better late than never, right? Then I read what I had written, and discovered that it was all a bit shit, and still wasn’t finished. Am I going to be able to correct that in the next two hours before I leave the house again? No.

I realised that over the past fortnight I’ve had very few nights in my own bed. I don’t think I’ve stayed in one place for much more than a day or two; the pile of washing up in the kitchen just keeps growing, and there’s something reminiscent of Hansard’s Odious Miasma living in the bin. I’ve got a couple of hours to deal with some of these things, but then I won’t be back home properly until Sunday night. Ugh. Some of the reasons for this constant movement have been unpleasant (a funeral on my partner’s side of the family, a friend moving away, etc) and some of the reasons have been exceedingly pleasant (such as a friend’s wedding, and a mutual belated birthday gift of a trip to the Harry Potter studios with my sisters – darn worth it, by the way). I’m stubborn as hell, and didn’t want to admit that I might have a teensy bit of trouble getting the latest episode finished on time. Because there’s always time to write, right?

Although I agree with this sentiment, I’ve often wondered how other people achieve it. Because when you say ‘there’s always time to write’ – are we talking about making time, or finding time? They’re two different things, and not equally possible. Ideally, you ‘make’ time by refusing other commitments – you say no to seeing your friends for a day, as an example. But it’s never as easy as that. Even though there’s this cliched image of a writer being in social isolation as a necessary consequence of their work, I’m not sure I believe it. I don’t think I’m an overly special case in that I live too far from friends and family to see them several times a week – there is no twice-weekly pub outing, or the like. But it does mean that social requests are not easily refused. For instance, I could have refused to go my mate’s leaving do, freeing up an entire, valuable evening for writing. But I don’t see him often as it is, and would rather be there to say ‘see ya, good luck, don’t fuck up’. Kinda what friends are for. I could have refused to see my sisters this week, which would have freed up an entire afternoon on Sunday and all of Wednesday. But they’ve paid money to have a week’s holiday near me, and frankly I’ve only seen them twice this year – we’re all skint, so visits are rare.

In my experience, most social commitments are like this. I don’t know if it’s a sign that I’ve become more of an adult, or if it’s just a symptom of moving out of the city (i.e. that place where my friends are) but I find social engagements involve a complex amount of give and take, and they are far more valuable to me now than they were a few years ago. It’s darn difficult to make time by dropping friends and family.

Then there’s finding time, which, if you’re like me, often involves stealing time-sheets from work so that you can write passages on the back of them during your shift. Or fighting the sun as it obscures your view of the laptop in the car. Or sacrificing sleep in exchange for a few more difficult words. This feels easier than making time, because you don’t have to explain it to anyone. You don’t have to let anyone down. Except, I suspect, yourself. The problem with finding time is that really the only person you’re stealing minutes from is yourself. Minutes you should be using to rest, eat, sleep. If you know that you’ve got a long week ahead, if you know you’re going to be hopping between cities and getting less than six hours sleep for several nights in a row, and then still getting up for work in the morning – it’s your own fault for trying to fit in even more work, and burning yourself out by the end of it. Should have made time instead, idiot.

These sound like excuses for why I haven’t met my self-allotted deadline. They’re not meant as excuses – just as observations. Lessons, hopefully. When trying to make or find time it often feels like you can’t win, because everybody else is demanding your time, too. How do you work around that? I’ve read that some people assign one specific day a week as their work day for writing. It’s treated like any other day at work. Friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, everyone else is told to stay clear, let the writer do their thing in peace. I love the idea, but I’m doubtful about how it works in practice. Regardless of whether you lock yourself away from the world or not, the world comes knocking just to tell you “The washing up needs doing and something might have died in the bin.”

Because even though you view your writing as one of the most important things in the world, few people share that view. I don’t yet think I’m at the point where I could tell a friend: “Sorry, I can’t come see you because writing is more important at the moment.” That sounds like a slap in the face. In my head, the response this gets is along the lines of: “What? Your stupid little short story thing, which isn’t exactly premier literature and nobody reads anyway – this is more important than a day with your friends? This silly, petty pastime is more important than your other hobbies?

And inside, there’s this meek little voice that just wants to say: “…yes…”

Dang, it all comes down to self-confidence again, don’t it? Like rivers to the sea, follow your problems in writing and it seems they all lead that way. There’s a great big sea of self-trust out there. I’ll reach it, eventually. Ina little boat called Endeavour. Could you get any more twee?

Well, lookee that. I started with an apology and ended up with a piece that vaguely resembles something interesting. To recap: Episode 10 of the Jack Hansard series will be released on the 10th of June, in a suitably more entertaining and well-written state than it currently is.

See y’all then~

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