One of the things I most looked forward to when I retired was the freedom to write whenever I wanted to, or all day when the muse was with me. At one point in my working career, I’d been laid off during one of those slumps where so many lost their jobs, and I spend months haunting job fairs and unemployment offices. I made sure I had the requisite number of interviews to keep the unemployment checks coming, and send out many résumés each week, but mostly I wrote. It was the first chance I’d had to just dig in and write with no competing demands for my time. My husband had passed away and my youngest child was in college. Only my dog wanted my attention now and then. I completely immersed myself in my characters’ journeys. I lived, ate and breathed their lives and loves. From the moment I got out of bed in the morning until I got back in at night. Eventually I did land a job and it was back to the 9-5 rat race, dancing to someone else’s piper every day. Don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful boss and an interesting job. But my day didn’t seem to give me much in the way of writing time.
I’d get up early, eat breakfast, go for a walk, shower, dress and leave for work – my commute was about an hour long. Work 8 hours, sometimes a bit longer, grab a bite to eat in the middle and return home, another hour at the end of the day. My pooch, naturally wanted another walk and some playtime. He’d been alone all day while I was away. Even if I never turned the television on, it would be 8:00pm before I got to sit down at my computer. Then it would take another half hour to check email and respond. Then I’d open my manuscript and stare at the place I’d left off the night before. And stare. And stare. My mind a blank. So, I’d go back and read the last chapter written to get myself back into the story. Just when things started rolling, it would be time for bed. I had an alarm clock I’d be getting up to in just a few hours. I know lots of authors who do this every day, but it wasn’t working for me. I did get a couple novels written during this time, but it wasn’t the same lovely, all-consuming focus I’d had while I was laid off. Had I sold a best seller during that ten-month hiatus, I’d have had it made. Or so I told myself. That, of course, is a pipe dream. Rarely do writers hit it big enough on their first try to quit their day job. So, now my focus was on my retirement. I was getting close to that magic number. I just needed to hang on.
And then the day came.
But something else happened while I was waiting for the magic life of freedom to return. Social media, instant access to endless forms of tech stuff from games to research, photos of cute animals, political forums and pleas to support good causes, email, text messaging, smart phones (to keep you attached to this time consuming umbilical cord even when you are away from your desk) and so much more. Now I wake every morning with this song in my head that I have ALL DAY to write. I go about the needed tasks: walking the dog, starting a load of laundry, picking up a few things at the grocery store, mopping the floor, etc., with this urgent anticipation in my heart. TODAY I am going to write sooooo much. It’s going to be a great day. From time to time I glance at the clock so conveniently provided in the corner of my computer screen and I am always shocked by how late it is. My goodness! It’s almost lunchtime. Where did my morning go? Well, I might as well have lunch and walk the dog. Then I can sit down with my book and really get into it.
The other thing that has finally become clear to me is that those months of my hiatus from work when I lived in my current novel in progress (I wrote four 100,000 word books in ten months, albeit, rough drafts needing much editing) those months were a thing of the past. I sometimes wonder if I actually cut myself off from the internet and went on a sabbatical to the top of some mountain with no people or even my dog around to distract me, would I be able to find my way back to that time? But, of course, I’m not going into seclusion. Among other things, I did become a published author which means I have to spend a certain amount of my time promoting the books I already have out there, which means spending time interacting with my readers in one way or another.
I’ve come to the conclusion that my best writing time, regardless of when I get up, or what the day includes, is from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. I’ve also gone back to wake my computer up at midnight or even later and write for another hour or two. I have always been a night owl and not a morning person so perhaps that makes sense. I’ve come to terms with it. I try not to be disappointed that so much of my promising day has gotten away from me before I finally get into my writing. I enjoy my characters and I thank them for sharing their lives with me whenever they find time. I enjoy my neighbors who wave when they pass by or stop to chat for a bit. I relish the time I spend on the beach with my dog and I love going out to lunch with fellow authors and comparing notes. So, maybe it’s not that wild and crazy ride I was on during the months I was laid off, but it’s a good life. I’ve got a new book coming out early next month and I’m in the revision stage for another with an urgent idea forming in my brain for two more. I’m blessed.