I’ve wanted to be an author for more years than I can count; it was my first dream career when I was in primary school, and then I went down a few different aspirations before I came back to realising being an author is the career for me. In fact, I was preparing to be an author even when I had other aspirations because I was writing despite not aiming for authorship. It’s all I think about at all times of the day, it’s all I’m waiting to do once my other responsibilities have been completed, and it’s all I ever want to do with every spare moment I have.
But finding time is hard, isn’t it? When writing isn’t your career, as it isn’t yet for me, writing becomes something I fit in around the rest of my day, in between other responsibilities. Whilst, one day, writing will be the main task of my day, I’m not there yet and, thus, it becomes a task of mine to figure out when I can write.
I do a lot of daydreaming. People have said they think I’m quiet or shy, and whilst I can be quiet, the reason isn’t necessarily because it’s a part of my personality. The truth is that I’m in my head, daydreaming about what I’m going to write later in the day. Maybe I’m working through dialogue as I work, or I might be choreographing a fight sequence laced with captivating phrases as I sit in the passenger side of a car, or I could be having a light bulb going off as I discover the most magnificent ways of tying plot together or a plot point that gives me goosebumps as I sit downstairs eating dinner with my family. In some ways, this is how I find time to write; by daydreaming and thinking throughout the day. The moment I open my phone, or get home to start up my computer, or even hurriedly write something down on paper, these are the ways I get around not yet having writing being the main part of my day.
For a lot of creative careers, this is how it works. Writing, drawing, sculpting, these are hobbies that don’t become your work until you’ve been at it in the background, taking mundane jobs that don’t bring you joy until you’re ready to take a leap of faith and start making money with your creativity.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it still can be a hobby! There’s a lot of incentive nowadays to turn anything you enjoy or anything you’re good at into a way of making money, and I don’t necessarily agree with that. Sometimes, you might just like knitting as you watch the TV, or you might like to create aesthetic terrariums in your spare time because it brings you joy, and that can be incentive enough. You don’t have to make a hobby your career, sometimes it can just be enough to do something because you enjoy it, and I feel like that’s a narrative that isn’t being pushed. If you simply like writing as a hobby and you only want to do it in your spare time, maybe posting it on the internet for free or, equally as valid, keeping it for yourself, that’s totally fine, and I wish it wasn’t encouraged that every hobby you have should be a way to make money.
But if, like me, you want to turn a hobby into a career, or perhaps you never see it as a hobby to begin with because I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen my writing as a hobby, then it’s something that, eventually, you have to take from doing in your spare time to committing to fully. That transition isn’t one for me just yet, and, so, I have to find time to write, and that isn’t always easy.
I still live with parents, I have a typical job that takes up about ten hours of my day including the commute, I like attempting to keep fit, I need to eat, shower, sleep, and make sure that I do other things so writing doesn’t become the only thing I do because that’s how you end up hating something. Whilst these are all things that are necessary and entirely valid, they take away from my time to write.
So, I find ways to write even when I don’t have my computer, laptop, or a notebook with me. The notes app on my phone is inundated with snippets and excerpts and a single line I thought of that made for the perfect transition, all from moments when I’m sat at work. As I said earlier, I would consider the amount of daydreaming I do a form of finding time to write when I’m at work or travelling. I take notebooks with me everywhere, so if I’m sitting on a plane or train (not something I’ve done for over a year, but something I will do when the time comes for long-distance travel again), I can write there as well. When I’m at the gym, I’m running through scenes in my head, I try to dedicate Sundays entirely to writing, when I come home from work, after eating, I’m on my laptop and taking the last few hours of the day to write or edit.
It’s sometimes devastating when I get home from work and I’m too exhausted to stare at a screen, the cursor blinking at me as I try to comprehend and wrangle the English language. Writing is such a joy for me, it’s up there as one of the things about life that I love most, playing around with characters and stories is one of my favourite things to do, and when I’m too tired, it’s crushing.
But that is, unfortunately, a reality for many creatives. When your creativity is left as a background task, for many reasons that are necessary and important, it can feel devastating. There are times where writing recharges my batteries, and there are times where it drains it further. I believe that’s because finding time to write instead of just being able to write is exhausting. As I’m daydreaming all day and then trying to scramble what I’ve thought into a few words in a notes app that will hopefully trigger my memory, all whilst working to keep bills paid and to sustain a life, it’s draining. So, I collapse into bed, and then my mind runs there as well because I’ve had some of my best ideas mere moments before my subconscious claims me. When a creative hobby that you one day want to be your career sits in your spare time where you think about it all day, it wears you out. I think creative people in office jobs or other careers that allow you little to no creativity is a real tragedy because it leaves you drained at the end of the day where all you want is to find another hour to write or draw or do anything that lets you express your creativity, but that time is whisked away from you.
This is why, although I am tired a lot and I do feel drained a lot of evenings, I keep working at it. Finding time to write at this very moment is how, one day, I will no longer have to find time and it will be just what I can do every day of the week. Obviously, being a writer isn’t just about writing, but I want writing to be the reason I wake up and start my day. Having writing sit in the background at the moment is how I will one day have it be my main task. I might be at this for years before finding time in between tasks is a thing of the past, but I need to work on my weekends, on my breaks, in the evenings right now so it can be my career in the future.
I also want to add that if, like me, you’re at this stage where you find time for your hobbies in between the other parts of your day, that means completing projects is going to take longer (sometimes a lot longer) than it would for those who are able to dedicate every waking second to something. That can be just as frustrating as coming home and not having the energy to work on your hobbies or express your creativity, it’s another draining facet of not being able to dedicate your entire day to your creative projects; seeing things take time or take longer than you would hope for, that can be exhausting.
But it’s important to acknowledge that you’re going as fast as you can. You shouldn’t rush these things, art is a loving, exhausting process, and however long you take to make something is however long it takes. Don’t get me wrong, you can still unnecessarily delay with procrastination or letting your fears overwhelm you, but these things do take time, and you shouldn’t try to rush it. There is no doubt that it’ll likely take longer than a year or eighteen months to write a book whereas a full-time author might be able to commit to that deadline. As long as you are finding the time to write, even if those moments are much more fleeting that you would like, that’s still positive, and it means you’re still working on your projects. Setting achievable goals and not beating yourself up if you can’t always reach those goals because you are searching everywhere for some time to write but weren’t able to find any, that’s really important. Finding the time can be just as difficult as actually writing, and committing to a creative process isn’t always easy, but acknowledging that, and acknowledging how much realistic time these things are going to take is how you don’t let your fears, your dreads, or your disappointments overwhelm you so that you don’t give up. Perseverance is the game here.
I hope, for anyone reading this who is also struggling with the fact their art sits in their spare time, knows, whilst it can be draining, it won’t always have to sit as a hobby. One day, after you’ve put in all that work and you’ve found time in the in between parts of your day, it will be your whole day instead, and I hope that comes soon for us all.