Although we usually don’t associate New Year’s Day with gift-giving (possibly because we’re broke from all that gift-giving at Christmas, or Hanukkah, or other major winter holiday), I always feel like January 1st gives me an incredible gift: the chance to climb out of whatever rut I’ve dug for myself the previous year and start pursuing life, liberty, and happiness with renewed vigor.
I usually make a list of goals (I prefer goals to resolutions—goals seem more proactive, while resolutions tend to be a list of “Thou shalt nots”) that goes on and on until it’s taller than I am, but this year I’m concentrating on one thing: treating writing like a full-time job. I figure if I do this, all my other goals (such as finishing my current novel-in-progress in a timely fashion) will fall into place.
I recently read Janet Evanovich’s How I Write, and while it didn’t tell me anything new and earth-shattering about writing, two things struck me. The first was near the beginning, when Janet talks about how hard she works at writing. She says: “While my writing may give the impression of being simple and effortless, it actually takes me hours to get it to appear that way.” Wow. I was so impressed because Janet Evanovich’s writing does seem effortless, like it must just flow from her fingers that way. Especially since she seems to have a new book out—in at least one of her series—every time I go to the bookstore. It heartens me to know that she has to work at it, just like I do.
The second thing came late in the book, when she talks about her normal writing day. She treats writing as a full-time job. She gets up at 5:00 a.m. and puts in an eight-hour day, breaking only for lunch and snacks. Which explains how she can put in all that work making her writing smooth and seamless, and still publish umpty-ump books every year.
Now, with two kids at home who are involved in every activity known to man, not to mention my husband, my dog, and my mother-in-law (who lives with us), eight hours per day would be a bit of a stretch for me on most days. But I can—and will—make writing my priority, working other things around my full-time writing job, rather than the frustrating way I’ve done it in the past, which was to tuck my writing in and around everyone else’s schedules. (Why do writers do this? Other people don’t operate this way. My dentist doesn’t say, “If I can get my daughter to bowling on time, I may be able to fill a cavity or two before I have to pick my son up from basketball practice, take the dog potty, and start dinner.”)
So that’s my 2007 goal. Hey, I may even print up time cards and make myself clock in and out. That would certainly make it feel like a real job.