Last week I had to run an errand for my boss, after which I could go home. I completed the errand and realized that I had 34 minutes before I had to pick up my daughter. That meant 34 minutes of time to do whatever I wanted. If you have kids you know what a big deal this is--34 minutes alone is the equivalent of a long weekend by yourself. At least for me. So I sat in my car trying to decide what to do with my surprise 34 minutes. The answer is obvious--I should write. I briefly considered driving to a nearby coffee shop of some sort but decided instead to just stay in the car. Why waste 10 of those precious minutes going somewhere when I finally have a vehicle with air conditioning? So I parked in the shade but not too close to any trees just in case one might crush my car as trees around here are wont to do. I whipped out my notebook and . . . I couldn't do it. Thirty-four minutes of complete, uninterrupted private time and I couldn't write. I tried not to let that stop me but after struggling through a paragraph I just gave up and went to pick my daughter up early. Heavy sigh.
If you have read any of my past posts you know I have almost zero time to myself and that I write in small 10-30 minute increments where and whenever I can get them. I carry small notebooks with me in my purse for just this reason. When I'm at home, I have the notebook sitting nearby me. As you can see, if I leave my notebook unattended, my resident three year old will claim it for her very own and leave me a treat amongst its pages which I usually just write around. She said that this one is a germ.
I've been "writing around" things ever since I started writing. Writing around my daughter's lovely drawings, writing around my job, around my relationships, writing around my life basically. I've never bought into the whole starving artist thing. I like having a roof over my head thank you very much. I also like to eat. Now that I'm responsible for someone else, it is imperative that I provide these things, not to mention health benefits. So any dreams I may have had of staying home all day long and writing to my heart's content--ain't gonna happen. I think it's to the point now where when I do have quiet time, my pen stalls. I'm in the habit of writing while I'm being distracted by ten or twelve other things. I could probably have banged out a good 500-600 words waiting 34 minutes in line at the post office than in the silence of my air conditioned car. Go figure.
There was a time during the early drafts of Finding Claire Fletcher where it was as if I was writing full time. I worked as a Certified Nurse Assistant in nursing homes. I'd work 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. whenever I could (as opposed to doubles--3 p.m. to 7 a.m.) and I'd get home around 8 a.m. I'd spend a half hour unwinding (taking a shower). Then I'd pop open a bottle of wine, sit down at my desk and write until 5 or 6 at night. I would stop to sleep because I had to in order to function at work at 11 p.m that night. So it continued for many months. In retrospect I think I was in danger of becoming a lush. I was so engrossed in writing that book though it wasn't hard at all to spend all those quiet hours alone in front of my computer or in my chair with a notepad. But that's where I started writing on the fly. A lot of my time as a nurse assistant was spent waiting outside the bathroom door while residents did their business. I'd put scrap paper in my scrub pockets and while I was waiting five, ten, fifteen minutes for them to ring for me, I'd write. I also wrote on my breaks or after I was done with my charts. At home I would type up whatever I had on my scrap paper and be off to the races.
I'm not saying I wouldn't want to write full-time. Like any writer, that is my dream! But right now circumstances in my life are not really conducive to that so I do what I can. What are your writing habits? What kinds of distractions do you have to deal with? If someone came along and said, "You have 34 minutes to write the next scene in your work-in-progress. GO!" could you do it?