"Seven bums and fourteen legs,
a brazen ecstasy which begs
the question some of us are asking -
is Peter Goulding multi-tasking?"

Martin Parker, Editor, Lighten Up Online

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Can only those with time on their hands be writers?

I read a short story forty odd years ago about a man complaining to his friend that he had no time for leisure activities. He worked it out mathematically through the numbers of hours per year spent sleeping, on holidays, eating, at work etc. The friend pointed out the flaw that you sleep while on holidays etc - he was counting them concurrently rather than simultaneously.
I am constantly amazed by the number of people I hear about who attend poetry events, or spend two weeks on artists retreats, or who have produced novels or other large volumes of work. Where, I ask, do they find the time?
Personally, I spend 12 hours a day actually in work. Include time travelling, washing, making lunches etc, its nearer 14 hours a day. I do this on 3 days and 4 days a week alternatively.
On these days I have absolutely no time for writing.
In addition to my work, I write about 12,000 words a month for the local paper and write two columns for the the football club programme twice a month. Admittedly, I can do much of this while working nights but when I'm on days, this is extra
On the other 3/4 days, my wife, who has not seen me for all the time I am in work, is not impressed if I spend the time in the solitary occupation of writing. And I don't blame her. Roles reversed, I would want me to help with jobs around the house, go shopping and spend a bit of quality time with me.
My question is - is it possible for a married person with a job and a family to really have the time to develop as a writer? Do you have to be unemployed, or retired, or employ a nanny and an au pair? I have no idea where to find the time for writing and not feel guilty that I'm neglecting my family.


  1. It's almost refreshing to come across a blog saying this - I seem to find plenty that are by mothers with three under-fives, full time jobs and menageries of pets, who snatch half an hour at the crack of dawn and have just had their third novel published! They just make me feel guilty. I only just started following you but it seems to me from a brief browse that you ARE finding the time to write -your newspaper work, a plethora of published stories, the many poems on the site. So don't beat yourself up, just keep honing what you do - or stop the small stuff and spend that time on the big stuff maybe?

  2. Peter, I divide my time between running the house, running errands for/spending time with my widowed mother and spending time with my husband. I'm not working, so in between loads of laundry, doing dishes and driving round to pick up stuff, I'm writing.
    Having said that, I still find it hard to keep up with blogs, blogging and trying to carve out a niche for myself in the poetry world. Admittedly, it would help if I didn't keep creating blogs, finding new ones and social networking on Facebook (that's my one cyber-vice and it's a small one.)

    I don't know how YOU do it!

  3. Peter: Been there done that. Believe me, with children, there is not much time to invest in one's art. Thus so many artists are (not always) living alone. Sad but true. I thought that you could talk into a computer with a dragon program thus freeing up time while doing the dishes or vacuuming, or feeding the babies, etc. I have been very busy at times looking after another but find the time inbetween and then I am like phased out, in "space" thinking of the next short story, poem, etc. Not good I know. My full attention should be on the job at hand. Free time, you will make when you can, until then, make quick notes and talk into a taperecorder when doing mundane tasks. (like the dishes). Idea?

  4. Peter, don't talk to me about the guilt thing! Between working p/t, rearing the six at home, and trying to give his nibs his fair due, I don't know how I've ever written anything!

    I slip in the odd bit of writing every now and then, when no-one's looking, but lately it's been those golden weeks of stolen time away at AMK that's been my saving grace - and they come with a heavy price on my return (putting the house back together again).

    As I go about other things I think things out, and if it sounds like it might make a poem, I write it. If not, it withers away - and that's not necessarily a bad thing, either. Sometimes it's your life that's the poem too, someone once told me. You can't always be writing...

  5. Oh I'm not really complaining, BB, I'd just like to devote more time to honing my work but don't think I could really justify it. I'm just in awe of people like Barbara and how they do it!
    Yes Kat, I know about Facebook. I actually joined it because I found my sister who I hadn't spoken to for ten years, then my daughter started inviting everyone to be my friend and I can't keep up with it now!! You're right, Chic, I used to try and multi-task a lot, particularly jotting down things at traffic lights,having a pen and paper on the windowsill when doing the washing up but now I don't seem to have the energy to do more than one thing at a time!
    That's a good point about prioritising, leaving out the small stuff maybe. And an excellent point Barbara about not always writing. My wife often says I can write a great poem but she wishes I could put up a shelf, which is true.

  6. My wife and I decided that we have indulged too many distractions from the things that do us good. So we take 2 hours every evening to do our "hobbies" and have committed to setting Sunday aside (though we go to Church and occasional Cub Scout meetings) as well. We aren't allowed to do chores, or turn on TV, or even read a book. Though if we all agree some music may be played.

    We all do creative things (my wife mostly crafty stuff, I write, my son builds with legos and the baby crawls around exploring the house mostly coming to each of us in turn for a bit of attention..she sometimes sits on my lap while I write).

    We have decided to do this. Even if it means major inconveniences. 2 hours a day being creative and healthy and unpressed for time.

    To do this I had to shift my work schedule to 7-4 and go to bed earlier, but it is completely worth it.

    I still can't go on retreats or do workshops. I'm not even sure I could do a local writer's club sort of thing. At some point you just have to decide that you cannot have all the things you want in life. It's hard (As fat-man, I know the depths of shame when it comes to lack of self-control). But it must be done.

  7. I have the luxury of time and now I feel guilty....:)

  8. to be a writer you must be some degree of neurotic, have tragically lost a minimum of one loved one, have failed miserably at something significant, be essentially misunderstood, divorced, broke, addicted to something, and embroiled in lifelong angst -- or not...
    Image & Verse

  9. Hi nothinghypothetical, that's a good idea but my wife is not really creative. I feel justified in going on the computer if she's watching the telly but then you're just living in the same house without any interaction!
    Braja - your comment set me thinking. Maybe I shouldn't be wishing for more time in case I actually get what I wish for!
    Rob - so true. I interviewed a local guy once who said he was going to audition for X Factor but was worried that he didn't have a family tragedy to bolster his application.