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Personal Space

When I talk about becoming a writer, or more correctly, the process of being a writer, people sometimes ask me how I fit writing into an already busy life (and believe me, it is). I'm a mom, a full-time teacher, a wife, a debate coach...it's a lot to balance already. And if there's one thing writers need, it's TIME. It takes hours and hours of alone time to write books.

The truth is that I actually feel pretty guilty taking hours away from my family to write, and I bet a lot of other aspiring writers feel the same way. A part of me feels like pursuing my dream of writing shouldn't take precedence over spending even an hour or two with my family. Isn't that something we all experience in the modern world? We've conditioned ourselves to feel like doing something alone or just for ourselves is somehow a dereliction of family duty.


I'm fortunate in that my husband and daughter are supportive of my dream to write and don't in anyway contribute to that guilt I lump on myself. And their support has helped me (repeatedly) remind myself that when I am a more self-actualized, more authentic version of myself, I'm a better wife and mom, too, because I don't feel like I've put myself on the back burner with that tiny voice of resentment constantly grousing passive-aggressively in the corner. What? No one has that little voice but me? Dang. I guess I sort of called myself out there, then.


But seriously, even though I do feel a bit bad about checking out of household life for an hour or two at a time, it's taught me an important lesson, and I think it's one worth sharing. I've learned that I can actually take some time for myself to do something that's important to me...just me...not my students, not my family...just me...and the world won't end. Things won't fall apart because I'm not there micromanaging them. If those dishes in the sink need to be done, well, they'll be there in an hour. If there are papers that need to be graded, well, they'll get done even if it takes an extra day or two. And really, no one even notices the fact that it took a little longer to accomplish those other tasks.


At the risk of overdoing the double entendre in my title, alone time means more than just metaphoric space, it also means physical space. It would be pretty hard to have quiet, undisturbed time (this, by the way, is a running joke among writers...insert meme here about The Shining, and it not being Jack Torrence's fault, because he was just trying to get some writing done) if I was writing in, say, the living room. It's very important, I think, to be able to create a personal bubble where you can phase out of reality and into the universe of your story.


This is also a trap. The temptation is to spend lots of time and money creating such a space: a space of perfect zen tranquility, a place with the ideal atmosphere to create your story...and that's fun and wonderful (and also a marvelous procrastination technique keeping you from ACTUAL writing), but it's also just wrapping paper. What really matters is that you can be comfy and alone in whatever space it is. That might be a corner of the dining room (as it was for me when I wrote most of Rise of the Moon), it might be an outdoor table at your favorite coffee place, it might be a park bench, heck, it might be in your parked car in the driveway.


Just take time for yourself and write. Who knows, after a while you might even end up with a happier soul and a published book. You deserve both.

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