I have met a great many people who claim they want to be writers, but who don’t act like it. I have also met more than one professional writer who claims to want to quit his/her day job and go full-time as a writer, but who doesn’t act like it. And I’ve even met a couple of folks who claim they want to stop writing, but who don’t act like it.
What it all boils down to is the decisions people make, most especially the decisions they make about how they spend their time and, to a lesser extent, their money.
For instance, the first category includes a gentleman who complained of not having enough time to write. “What do you do in the evenings after work?” I asked. He said he either watched TV or went to the bar with his friends, and no, he couldn’t possibly cut an hour out of either thing. “What do you do on Saturday morning, then?” He said he was an avid body-builder and that was his time at the gym. “OK, how about the afternoon?” That was for catching up on the TV he’d missed when he was out at the bar with his buddies; he had everything set up to tape his favorite shows. Saturday evening was late night at the bar (no wonder he needed all that time at the gym!) and Sunday was for more TV and the occasional catchup with family. It boiled down to about thirty hours of TV every week, and he absolutely, positively could not give up any of it, and he had a Netflicks queue about 300 movies long for if he ever ran out of TV to watch.
That man doesn’t want to be a writer; he wants to be a professional TV watcher.
The first category also includes a young woman with an equally crowded schedule, except hers was taken up with voice lessons on Monday, art class on Tuesday, photography Wednesday, community theater group Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings (when there was a performance; other days when something was in rehearsal); outdoor photography sessions during the day on Saturday, and a desperate round of weekly life maintenance (laundry, shopping, housekeeping, prepping for all those other activities) on Sunday. And another whose week was similarly crowded with volunteer activities, and another with a social schedule that simply would not quit, and even one person who’d gone to great lengths to “balance” everything – photography class Monday, gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays, volunteer at the food shelf on Wednesdays, dinner with friends on Friday, one of four monthly meetings or events on Saturday (church committee, investment club, knitting group, family outing), life maintenance Sunday.
Those sorts of stories are common and fairly obvious, at least from the outside (the folks who overschedule themselves like this never seem to realize that they can’t get more time without stopping something). But there are also a few older writers who “want to retire,” but who keep cranking out stories and articles as if it’s a habit they can’t break. And one who claims in one breath to want to retire, and then in the next complains that he/she has no ideas for the next story and feels twitchy for not writing. If you’re retired, the whole point is that you’re not writing…at least, that’s what I always thought (which is why I’ve never felt much inclination to worry about retirement in the traditional sense; my “retirement fund” is basically there for late-life medical conditions that would actively prevent me from continuing to write, because that’s what it’s going to take to stop me).
But there’s another level of anti-writing decision-making that’s one up from the folks who can’t give up their TV or who’ve overscheduled. It’s the level of major life decisions that end up making it easier or harder to do other things (like write), and it’s a lot less obvious and a lot more complex than just overscheduling.
For instance, you have the folks who’ve embarked on a career path doing something they hate because it pays well, and then discovered that it pays well because you have to put in 80-hour weeks. Between time on the job and hating what they do, they’re too physically and emotionally exhausted to do much of anything else with what little “free time” they have. Or you have the first-time homeowners who didn’t realize in advance how much time and money they have to put in on maintenance and yard work.
When a person decides to do anything that takes time, the time has to come from somewhere else. “Somewhere else” means “something that you’re doing now that is less important than the new thing you’re adding to your schedule.” If one thinks about it in advance, one can make reasoned decisions based on what one is willing to give up in order to have the new thing. If one doesn’t think about it, one ends up with more to do than one has time for, and something has to go. Quite often, it’s the writing time that gets cut “temporarily” (as if there’s ever going to be more than 24 hours in a day). Which, logically, says that writing time is less important than whatever you’re doing instead.
Actions, they say, speak louder than words…but quite often, if one doesn’t think about the consequences, one ends up saying something completely different from what one intended.