I don’t know many writers who haven’t at one time or another spun fantasies about their perfect writing life.
My mildest, most practical version—the one without the green wing’ed* unicorn named Pulitzer or the private, bookcase-lined office with the carved, wooden spiral staircase**—usually involves rolling out of bed around nine, taking the five-minute commute to work via the bathroom, sitting down in front of my Netbook, and cranking out my daily word-goal by lunch while still in my jammies.
The muse is always present, the book is always contracted (and earns out), and there’s more than enough time to write and do research before the kids come home.
Even if you’re aware that writing is actual work and the days of six-figure (or even five-figure) advances are few and far between, it still looks pretty shiny, doesn’t it?
My Fantasy Writing Life tends to bypass the minor facts—as fantasies do— that my novel hasn’t been accepted for publication yet and that I have to drop the kids off at school most days. But it does smack right up against the reality of needing health insurance covering four people and a roof covering five. Six, if you count the cat.
My husband is a yoga instructor who works for multiple studios and gets paid by the student—no benefits. My mother-in-law is on a fixed income that is hers. We have two kids under the age of ten, at least one of whom is genetically doomed to a future full of orthodontics and both of whom grow out of their clothes every second Tuesday. And there’s no such thing as a free cat.
Odds are, I’m not going to be able to have the All-Day in My Jammies Writing Life of my dreams until I retire from the library***—unless the Lottery Fantasy pans out (I’ll have to buy a ticket someday) or the Great-Aunt Ethel I haven’t got makes me sole heir to her fortune.^
But I can have a writing life now.
I can make time to write every day—and use it to write. I can keep up with the latest industry news. I can read a lot of everything. I can keep sending out my work and feel a little pride in being the first on my block to collect the whole set. I can keep going, even when I feel like the lousiest unpublished hack this side of literacy. I can listen to my friends and writing partners when they tell me I’m not a lousy hack and to sit my butt back down and keep going—and I can tell them the same when the dread of hackery descends upon them.^^
And once I’m published . . . note the confidence here and pay no attention to the compulsive knocking of my right hand against the wooden table . . . I’ll repeat the above paragraph until my next book is finished. And then again. And, I hope, so on.
Because it may be that the trick to having the perfect writing life is to write down the fantasies and live the realities, while enjoying both as much as possible.
I’m willing to give it a try until my green wing’ed unicorn shows up.
*Not winged, mind. Wing-ed.
**And large picture window overlooking the unicorn run and the shirtless unicorn-keeper who looks just like Prince Harry. . . sorry, where was I?
*** the rule of eighty-eight (Age + Years Employed = 88 = Full Pension) says I’ve got 24 years to go.
^ I’m a genealogist. That sort of halts the Sole Heir Fantasy in its tracks, as well as the Rich Relatives Fantasy.
^^Heaven forfend it happens to all of us at the same time . . .