I read an article recently that looked closely at what we think of when we picture the lifestyle of a writer. Believe it or not, we feed into this trope by seeing images of the starving artists, the intellectual friend, the drinking of coffee and liquor, being surrounded by books and living with an obscure schedule and routine while words are scribbled on some old typewriter or on paper with a quill pen and ink.
Maybe some writers live this life – this fantasy of an untouchable creature who puts words on the page and creates works of writing that can only be produced by living in pain and anguish while tucked away in some office that smells of stale smoke and dusty books. But the reality for most of us is quite different.
Writers are just normal people. Yes, we might qualify as a little weird or aloof and our rituals sometimes make us quirky, but our lifestyle isn’t the fantasy that is shown to the world. Take my writing lifestyle, for example.
I don’t have an office filled with inspirational posters and perfectly decorated environments meant to put me in the right head space. I write on a 13-year-old couch with slip covers that are in constant need of being washed because of the dogs. Most of the time I have kids making noise in the background, Fortnite blaring from the Xbox, and somebody asking for something. Just about the time I get into my writing and feel the words flowing, I have to stop and make dinner. Or drive the kids’ activities. Or help with algebra.
Most of my writing notes are in old Moleskine journals or spiral notebooks leftover from a previous school year. I’m making outlines and character sheets with pens likely stolen from the orthodontist on our last visit. Yes, I’m surrounded by books when I write – mainly because my decorating style is ‘early American paperback’ and our house reflects that we love to read. I write my stories on a new Macbook only because I spilled coffee on my old one and it was cheaper to replace it than fix it.
When I’m lucky enough to get a full day to work on my writing I end up spending it in my pajamas in the bedroom. Then I get the joy of having a door to shut. I’d like to say that those work days are spent cranking out word after word after word, but there is so much more to it. There is social media to update and understand so that the algorithms work in my favor. Decisions need to be made – keep a Facebook page or start a group? There are critiques to finish for other authors I work with, graphics to make, sales to set up and advertise, websites to maintain, and other projects to outline and flesh out. The kids usually open the door and then whisper ‘Oh, you’re writing. Never mind.’ The dryer is beeping, the phone is ringing, and random text messages are coming in from family wanting softball schedules or updates on what sizes the kids are wearing these days. Usually the coffee on the nightstand is already cold and the dogs are just begging to lay in the bed with me.
The chaos continues around me. And it never stops. But, to be a writer I must adjust and accept the circumstances. I must work around them, find the inspiration, and get the words on the page. As much as I would love a utopian cabin in the woods overlooking a lake where I can create all the hours of the day – that is just a fantasy. The reality is a 10:30 bedtime, a 5:00 AM alarm clock, and a few words squeezed in between a reheated meatloaf and Tuesday karate class.
Does this fit your view of a writer? If not, what did you picture? If you’re a writer, what does your writing life look like?