“How do you get all of your writing done between work and parenting and living life?”
I don’t know.
Asked the question, I’ll usually offer up some kind of vague answer about time management, scheduling, early mornings, late nights, and the in betweens. I’ll likely shrug it off, as if writing—for work, for the blog, for a broader scope—isn’t a big deal. As if writing doesn’t give me breath, doesn’t restore my soul, doesn’t reach down into the darkest depths of my soul and pull me out when I need it the most.
Readers here and in the many spaces I share my written voice don’t see the stack of journals sitting directly to my left. I write in them regularly and sporadically. I come to them in silence, let the pen scrawl across the page in the quick-but-slow way that only a pen can; the pen-to-paper feeling fills me up, pushes me forward. Some of my best pieces of writing, read here or elsewhere, started as a cursive-and-print etching on the pages of a paper journal, on a piece of notebook paper stolen from my children, on the side of a church bulletin. Though other writings, beautiful and meaningful ones, started here or in Evernote or in other places where typing happens quickly, the words spilling onto the screen with such fervor I find it difficult to keep up.
Somewhere between the literal written word and the typed written word, I find meaning, I make sense, I feel feelings, I open up. In real life, in my everyday action with people, I guard myself carefully. An introvert by nature, it’s easier to keep people at an arm’s length than to look them in the eyes, to tell them all of the things. It isn’t until I’ve known you long enough, deep enough, that my walls come tumbling down and you find yourself living in my inner circle. It’s actually a detriment to real life people who want to be in my life, that pushing away thing I tend to do. Those people who live inside my computer don’t get that… as much. I let them in, I let you in.
As for how I write and get it done, I have no magic answers. I hate when people answer the question with, “I just make time.” I hate when people answer any question about things people do with that answer: running, exercising, cooking home cooked meals, reading, and so on. It smacks of judgment on the asker, as if the person asking the question isn’t trying hard enough, doing enough, making enough time in their already jam-packed schedule. I don’t judge people who don’t write any more than I judge people who don’t run; we do what we do.
I write when I can, when I squeeze it in between work and play and running and sleep. I write when my brain can’t do anything else, when I get that feeling that bubbles up within my soul telling me that if I don’t sit down and write right then, I might simply explode. I write in little snippets throughout the day: while running, while showering, while cooking dinner and dancing to 90s music. I lose some of these pieces, as the last mile of a run will wipe me out; I’ll find myself sitting on the front stoop wondering, “What was that brilliant stroke of genius I had back at mile two?” Gone. I keep journals and notebooks everywhere. I jot things down at will, coming back to them later and thinking, “What on Earth did I mean by that?”
I write drafts upon drafts upon deleted, stupid, awful drafts. So much of what I write never makes it beyond the journal page, the Evernote notebook, the ddrafted post. So much of what I write gets dropped on the cutting room floor. Sometimes it’s not about me and my perfectionism; sometimes it’s simply about how the piece needed to be written out of my soul but simply doesn’t need to be consumed by others. Sometimes writing is just for me. Or, rather: Writing has always been just for me, but I am given the choice to share it with others when I feel so inclined. Sometimes it helps or enlightens or informs or humors others; it always helps me.
I do not keep a strict editorial calendar for the blog like I do for work. I write about running on Mondays. I share 52 Weeks of Brotherhood on Wednesdays. I share some links on Sundays… sometimes. And the rest of the days? I write what I want. I share what needs shared. I seek out opportunities to submit my writing elsewhere, whether it’s something I’ve already written or something I could write. I write when something happens in the news or in society that makes me passionate, makes me feel like maybe words can help or fix or heal or educate or just simply exist. I write things for work when I’m the right person to write the piece.
That’s it. I have no words of wisdom about writing and submitting and managing the load of life with what is a writer’s brain and heart other than this: Write it. Write when you can. Write what you can. Write until you can breathe again.