by Janis Patterson
I spend waaaay too much time online. First, there's email to check, just to make sure there's nothing that has to be attended to, as everyone knows email is the best way to contact me. Then there's my twice-daily check of my sales stats - lately that has been a masochistic exercise in depression, to say the least! Of course, there's research to be done, for I simply have to know the depth of a stylish hem flounce in 1816 or the exact caliber of a Broomhandle Mauser... All legitimate reasons, all time-consuming, and if I would just stop there I would be all right.
Unfortunately, minutes spent online are far too much like potato chips or jelly beans - far too easy to overindulge in. I promise myself just one quick look on Facebook or Twitter, just long enough to do a little promo and do a fast check to see what my friends are doing... then sometimes at least an hour later I'll notice the clock and scream Noooo! It can't have been thaaat long!
Even more unfortunately (from a time sense only, as I am very happy), I have a husband and a home and an extended family to look after. Clothes must be washed, the kitchen cleaned, meals cooked, dust bunnies rearranged, errands run... the minutiae of daily living. Unlike the internet, each of these makes a perfect excuse not to write. I won't struggle with this chapter right now, especially since (insert household chore of choice here) has to be done.
Back when I was single my late mother used to swear she could tell how my writing was going by looking at my kitchen. If it was a disaster area almost fit for condemnation she knew the new book was going well. When she came over to find me cleaning the gasket of my dishwasher with a cotton swab and alcohol for the third day in a row, she would suggest that I start checking the want ads for a real job.
Make no mistake - I am a professional writer. Writing is my job. When I don't write I don't get paid. (Sometimes even when I do write I don't get paid, but that's another rant for another blog.) And I do my best to treat my writing just like I would an office job - dedication, responsibility, reasonable hours, decent output, respect for my craft.
Unexpected exigencies aside, I try to ration the lunches with girlfriends (though some still cannot understand why since I work at home - and therefore obviously don't have a 'real' job - I can't just drop everything and go run and play at any time) and other social/political necessities. I spend very little time at the store, meaning primarily the grocery store, as I dislike shopping and am known for wearing clothes until they are old enough to vote. There is one exception to this - when my dear friend from Peru comes up once or twice a year for a visit we spend a great deal of time shopping, as for her it is almost a religious experience. So much so that some clerks remember us from one excursion to the next!
Sometimes looking at my life I wonder that I get anything done, let alone why I put myself through such hard work and dedication and mental gymnastics for such a (recently, at least) insultingly paltry return. (Something really must be done about falling book sales!) It took me a long time, but I finally figured it out...
I can't do anything else. There are times I hate writing, there are times I vow never to write anything but a grocery list again, there are times I really wish the characters in my head would just SHUT UP... but there are more times I glory in the act of creation, feel delight that something works out swimmingly when I had feared it would take days of effort to make the situation work, joy that my characters have morphed into real, believable - albeit incorporeal - people with minds of their own...
In other words, I love writing. I can't imagine ever spending my life doing anything else. No matter how creative I can be in avoiding doing it!