by Janis Patterson
I try to write every day. Not because some writing guru or bestselling writer says it’s the only way to write or because it’s the ‘technique du jour’ or because it is reputed to guarantee sales or because of any other fanciful explanation. I try to write every day because the more I write, the more books I finish and (hopefully!) the more money I make.
Some things, however, supersede sales, and yes, even money. Not many, I will admit, but family tops the list. I can always catch up on my word count. The book will still be finished if I fall a little behind. The world will not end, no matter what an editor might say, if I miss a deadline.
Now I’m not talking about taking a nephew to a soccer game or going to lunch with an aunt… those are ordinary everyday things that should be scheduled around your work, just as if you worked in an office or in a factory. Just imagine telling your boss you had to leave because you had to chauffeur a kid to a game! It is just the same if you write – nothing changes just because you’re the boss. You work for yourself just as surely as if you worked for a multi-national corporation, and you should have the same attitude towards work. You are both boss and employee.
One of my favorite sayings is that when you work for yourself you might work 23 hours a day, but at least you get to choose which 23!
There are times, though, when all the rules go out the window. Family need trumps career every time. My beloved sister-in-law has gone into the hospital for a total knee replacement. She is a widow – my brother passed away almost a decade ago – and her children all live more than a fair distance away. I’m almost through with a book – two weeks dedicated work will get it finished, with a half-finished one and a completed one waiting to grow cold for editing in the to-be-done queue, but at the moment they’re off the table. My sis-in-law needed someone to drive her to the hospital at zero-dark-thirty in the morning, and I was not going to let her go into surgery alone. No, I didn’t go into the operating theatre, fascinating as it would have been – I stayed in the waiting room. I firmly believe, however, that no one should awake from anesthesia alone.
So – two days without writing. My career will survive, and if it doesn’t, my family is more important. I can catch up, though, and with a clear conscience. Besides, I firmly believe that 90% of writing is done between the ears – the keyboarding part is mainly mechanical – and I can think anywhere. At least, I could try, if my fellow denizens of the surgical waiting room would not keep the TV at a level somewhere between foghorn and earthquake!
My sister-in-law will go directly to rehab after a couple of days in the hospital, and when she eventually comes home her children will have taken time off from work and traveled down in turn to stay with her until she’s strong enough to return to her regular life. Plus, I’m just a phone call away.
If she wants to go to a soccer game, though, she’s going to have to drive herself. Because I am a very stern boss, I’ll be working.