I posted the meme you see here the other day on Twitter and Facebook, etc. It generated a fair bit of comment, some of it a bit snarky. So I thought maybe I ought to address the concept. Firstly, I stand by the basic premise of the meme, which we’ll look at below. But of course, real life has nuance that a few words on a picture don’t.
So let’s start with privilege. Yes, it’s absolutely true that if you can make time to write you are enjoying a certain level of privilege. If you live in a war torn country or you have to work 18 hours a day just to live, making time to write is not even on your radar. If you’ve had enough education to be able to write at all, let alone create coherent sentences that others might want to read, you are privileged. But in all honesty, a meme like this isn’t directed at people unfortunate enough to have no education or to spend all their waking hours simply not dying. We need to direct aid and care to those people wherever we can, not trite internet memes.
This meme is targeted squarely at the “I’d love to write but I just don’t have time” brigade. No one has time. We’re all busy living life. Unless you are incredibly privileged, and it’s a sad truth that a lot of successful writers are the ones who actually are incredibly privileged. We can’t ignore that truth. The ones who have independent wealth in the form of a trust fund or a partner who’s happy to pay all the bills. They don’t need to fit writing in around work, because they can make writing their work whether it’s actually paying anything or not. This meme is not for them, either. If they can’t find time or motivation to write, then fuck ’em. That’s just lazy or they don’t really want it.
This meme is directed at the regular people. Those folks privileged enough to have an education and a job and a roof over their head and no fear of starving to death in the immediate future. Those people are busy as hell, sure. We have jobs to go to, families to take care of, social engagements to meet, sleep to get somewhere if the kids will let us. But if people in those positions want to write, they absolutely can do so. They have to make the time, that’s all.
Let me use myself as an example. When I wrote RealmShift I was working a nine-to-five office drudge job to pay the bills and I was training and/or teaching six nights a week. I had a wife who wanted to see me sometimes. So I made time in the middle of the day. I used to have a bunch of stuff in the fridge at work and every lunch time I would quickly make a sandwich, then sit at my desk and eat it while I worked on the book. I wrote that entire novel, and a large part of MageSign, during lunch hours, plus any other time at weekends or evenings that I could make a space. Because that’s how badly I wanted to write.
Subsequently, I began building a life that included writing. I retrained to get my full fitness professional qualifications and I went into business for myself as a personal trainer. I had early morning and lunchtime clients, I taught martial arts in the evenings, and I had chunks of time between those things – a few hours mid-morning or mid-afternoon a few days a week – where I wrote. I made writing as important as those other things to make it happen, because that’s how badly I wanted it.
When my son was born, I’d just sold a trilogy to Voyager. I did most of the editing of those books one-handed, with a sleeping newborn cradled in in my left arm. And no, he didn’t sleep like a baby (what a fucking inaccurate piece of garbage that saying is!) But whenever I did get him to sleep, I would sneak into the study and edit. He’s two and a half now, and currently napping. I might get an hour or so to write, so I’m writing this. I’m sacrificing an hour on the current novel because I thought this subject was important.
And that’s the heart of it. Sacrifice. Like the meme says, How much do you want it? If you want it badly enough, you will make time. And if you don’t want to make time, if you don’t actually want to write – need to write – that badly, then that’s okay. Really, it is, there’s no shame in that. But don’t go around acting like anyone who is writing is doing it because they have all these bags of empty time on hand and they’re just having a lark. Those people writing are working fucking hard. They are sacrificing. Because that’s how much they want it.
How badly do you want it?