with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
My parents were here for a visit this past week, and I felt a fair amount of guilt about having to spend some of what I felt should’ve been quality visiting time sitting at my desk, working. My father would periodically rib me about how fast I type, and how constant the “tappity tap tap” refrain wafts out from my office.
One night at dinner he turned to me and asked, “How do you keep coming up with things to write about?”
“What do you mean?” I responded. “I have assignments and obligations. So I do them. It’s no different than what you do.”
“I could never write, day after day, the way you do! I’d run out of things to say after the first hour!” he insisted.
“I could never design a building that doesn’t fall down,” I answered. (My dad is an architect.)
This is the sort of exchange that I find endlessly amusing. Don’t get me wrong, here; I love what I do, and I think that the best writers do have some natural aptitude for it, sure. But the notion that it is somehow magical cracks me up. No one asks a computer programmer how he comes up with more lines of code, each and every day. No one finds it odd that their favorite restaurant cooks amazing food over and over again. But we “creative” types are often viewed as having a mystical quality that allows us to spin straw into gold, and I’m not buying it.
(It doesn’t help that various folks who consider themselves “artists” will talk about needing to be “moved” or “inspired,” further perpetuating the myth that anything more creative than bagging groceries requires a planetary alignment and a direct line to a personal muse. This would be why I really dislike the artist label, even though I know many fine and logical and normal artists.)
I get the “Oh, I could never do that” sorts of comments all the time. Or—the flip side of the coin—I get emails from folks wanting me to tell them how to do it. They want to be writers, too, and they want my secret.
You know the Thomas Edison quote about how genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration? That’s applicable to just about every area of life, I think. How do I do it? I just do it. I had a little bit of ability, and then I got to work. I started blogging long before anyone wanted to hire me to write, and I did it in large part because I knew that my periodic “writer’s block” was clear evidence that I was still an amateur. If I set myself up to write every single day, I reasoned, well, then, I’d likely end up being able to write every single day.
It worked. In the last four years I can probably count on my hands (with fingers left over) how many days I didn’t write. It’s not magic, it’s practice. It’s a conscious decision to hone my skills.
This is not to say that every word I write is completely fascinating or that I never have an off day, but I’ll tell you this: I haven’t claimed “writer’s block” in years. I write. Some of what I write is better than the other stuff. Some days I don’t feel like it. Some (rare) days it’s effortless and some (even rarer) days it’s agony; most days fall somewhere inbetween.
Believe me, if there was some sort of woo-woo force behind it all, I’d not only be a writer, I’d be a filthy rich writer who works a lot less. Also, chocolate would be calorie-free and bacon would grow on trees. (Wait. Did I go too far…? I think maybe that was a little too far. I’m sorry.)
So I guess the reality is that I’m just another working stiff. At the end of the day, that’s good enough for me.
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