The Cracks and the Crevices
On Writing with a Full-Time Job
I’m going on tour for 1000 WORDS, which is coming out January 9. If you’re in New Orleans, Brooklyn (1st or 2nd night), DC, Philly, or Jacksonville, I’ll be in your town during the month of January. Some events are ticketed. Some events we will just sit quietly and write together. Full details about all of it here.
Philadelphia, please note the correct date for the event there is January 14, not 13.
I posted this note a few weeks ago and felt like I wanted to talk a little bit more about it.
For the whole time I’ve known my friend, she’s always been writing, and before I knew her, too. Fiction, mainly. Recently, she has intensified her focus. Her eye is on the prize. Finishing the fucking thing. And it has been so delightful to observe it, and share in it, on occasion.
Sometimes she texts me and tells me when she’s writing, invites me to meet her at a cafe to write alongside her. To my eye she has a little glow during these moments. She should have that glow. She should feel proud of herself for showing up for herself like that. I have read some of her stories and I think they’re great. I admire her language, and I like her way of looking at the world. I want to read more of them. But also I just know it’s good for her to express herself. For any of us to write is a positive thing.
How does she find the time with her job? She has simply decided to make the time for herself. She found a word count that was challenging but achievable. She set aside the days she would be doing it. It was important to her. She does not have a flexible schedule. She has regular commitments. She just decided it was a priority. She made it happen.
I asked her how she’s tackling her words every week. She said, “I focus on just getting a hundred words down in a sitting, and usually end up with far more. It’s like doing the dishes. If you just commit to washing a couple in the sink, you might wind up finishing the entire pile.”
She also has an accountability partner, and she reports her word count to her, and her friend says something encouraging back. That’s all it takes to be an accountability partner. To listen, and to be supportive.
I don’t need to tell you this: writing is about ebbs and flows. And when it flows, it is a pleasure to experience, but also it is a pleasure to watch it happen in others. We must take inspiration from it, cheer on our friends when it’s happening.
I also asked Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author of the great novels Mostly Dead Things and With Teeth, about how she used to get her writing done when she worked full-time as a librarian.
She said, “I would write in the very early morning when I got to work to open the library. While the library was empty, for like 20-30 mins, with some coffee, while I waited to unlock the door.” An uninterrupted lunch break was another forty minutes to write. “And sometimes I would stay after our department closed for the day just because the building would be empty and I could get some extra writing done.” And sometimes, whoops, she would just leave that word doc open all day long. “If I had a good idea I would write anyway even if I was supposed to be working because it felt important and there was never enough time and god knows they weren’t paying me enough anyway!” (And then she added, “lol.”)
Make the time when you can in your schedule but look for the cracks and crevices, too. There’s always a few minutes to squeeze in for your art, for your stories, for you.