I used to watch a lot of television. I must have, because when I remember the days when I was single and think about all the time I wasted watching VH-1, Twilight Zone marathons, or the occasional episode of Sabado Gigante, I become fully aware of all the time I squandered that could have been spent writing. Even now, just thinking about it makes me queasy.
Sometimes I played video games, or tried to win radio call in contests, or wandered around a bookstore hoping the redhead in the New Age section would notice me. As a bachelor rooming with his sister, I’m sure I wasn’t scrubbing my bathtub or scouring the kitchen sink. And you might think I spent all that time surfing the internet but, at that point, the World Wide Web was nearly a decade away.
I thought I was busy. I thought my calendar was full and I couldn’t possibly squeeze another minute in to sit down at the keyboard. And then I’d plop on the sofa, click the remote, and say, “Hey, is that a Monkees reunion on The Today Show?” and my morning would be gone.
Sure, I wrote. I spent lots of time cranking out poetry and the occasional short story in fast food restaurants while sipping Pepsis from their all-you-can-drink beverage bars. And I sent out submissions. I even got a few poems published in literary journals that were produced in some guy’s garage. If the journal was university-sponsored, I felt I’d hit the big time. I felt like a writer because I produced more writing than the plumber who lived next door (Interestingly if I stopped writing the world would still turn, but if the plumber stopped his job, the results would be disastrous). So sure, I was a writer. But not really.
And then marriage, family, and first mortgages became a part of my life and, consequently, the days I spent on the couch flipping channels were over. I was forced to prioritize, be more responsible, and act like an adult. All good things. But what about the writing? Having a real life with grown up obligations meant that, as a writer, I had to get serious. I must be structured, organized, committed. In short, I needed a plan. When I was single, I had time to write, but couldn’t muster the discipline and stamina to write consistently. And now I was mature and focused, but finding the time to write seemed impossible. In my business, we call that irony.
My eventual plan involved much less sleep. For sixteen or seventeen years now, my alarm has gone off at 5 a.m. and I’m in my classroom by 6 a.m., an hour before my first class begins. I get the coffee going, pop a Joe Cocker, Elton John, or Van Morrison CD in the boombox, sit at my desk, and start typing.
There are still days, of course, when I have to spend that hour preparing for my daily work as a high school teacher, but I try my best to keep it sacrosanct for my writing. Overall, I think it’s worked. I’ve completed a self-published teaching methods text, the worst mystery novel you’ll never read (with a rough draft that clocked in at 500 pages), a fairly good young adult novel, and a second young adult novel that actually stands a chance of appearing at your local Barnes and Noble. I feel I’ve been successful in my pursuit of finding time to write.
But forget the writing for a moment. My ultimate reward has been even greater than words on a page. That hour alone in the sanctuary of my classroom, sipping my coffee, listening to classic rock, lost in a story of my own creation, and stopping only now and then to notice the San Diego morning sun in May or the drizzly rain in the leafless trees outside my classroom door in December, is pure heaven. The words on the page may have fed my muse, but the time spent in tranquility and thoughtful reflection has fed my soul.
How do you eke out the time to write?