This was the plan. Fortunately, it was not mine.
My need to write began when I was four and was still holding my pencil in the Fist Grip that drove my kindergarten teacher up the wall. The Fist Grip did not affect my handwriting negatively, but it was not the correct grip, and so we tangled. I left kindergarten with a Modified Fist Grip, which I still use to this day. I also left kindergarten with a bald stripe going straight down the center of my scalp, because while the teacher’s back was turned one day, I decided to spruce up my look with her scissors.
Writing was not a want. It was not a choice or a liking, but a need that ranked right under those for air and food and water. I devoured books and studied cartoons for the anatomy of character; I spent weekends plotting out the backgrounds of my dozens of stuffed animals, and then my siblings’ stuffed animals as well. I wrote out their report cards and work evaluations and what magical powers they had, if any, and once I was through with that, I began to plot series that I understood I was not ready to write yet. The notes for these series were hidden in an ornamental teapot on the mantle in the living room, which I slipped from my bedroom to acquire when I had more to add.
Meanwhile, I wrote short stories and poems and read every book I could get my hands on whether it was for boys or girls or adults or the instructions on how to put together a particleboard shelving unit. My first series was composed when I was in second grade, and I did not stop to think that my religious school might look askance on stories about a swashbuckling pirate cat that robbed banks and killed people by sword in order to fuel his won-ton soup addiction. I plunged ahead in delight with tales of his nefarious crimes, each more dastardly than the last, worrying my teacher that instead of a budding writer in Row Three, she had a budding psychopath instead.
In fourth grade, I began to read books on how to write. One needed a desk. I considered the desk that I shared with my brothers, all of who were slobs of indescribable proportion. Neither the seat nor the desktop could be accessed, and some thick purple liquid was oozing over the drawers. Resenting that no magician ever appeared on the doorstep to announce that I had been kidnapped as an infant and would now be returning to my rightful magical home to study the arts of sorcery, I returned to the creaky and uncomfortable green chair on the porch.
The books on how to write said that I needed a quiet place to concentrate, but when one has parents who live in noisy feud and siblings allergic to any decibel level below one zillion, that is not an option. A writer needs uninterrupted time and sharp pencils and willpower; I did not have the luxury of the first, the second depended on if I could find the sharpener, and I didn’t understand the third. It took willpower to get through the dull school days. It took willpower to eat peas. It took willpower not to punch my siblings. But writing was play, and play required no willpower.
In the end, it served me well. I jotted wobbly dialogue on bus rides to swim meets, and wrote through Mrs. Moscow’s chaotic French II class with one eye on her so that I did not get caught. I took notes on characters while my parents screamed at one another in the background; I fought with troublesome descriptions as my siblings threw things at me. I’d write with dull pencils or crayon if that was all I had; I kept a notepad by my bed so that I could write down what thoughts came at two in the morning since my mind found writing more interesting than sleep. By the time I was in my early twenties, I was used to writing in all sorts of disagreeable circumstances. In my holiday job at a cash register, I sprinted up to the food court for my fifteen minute break and wrote furiously to cram in as much as I could with yelling teenagers and wailing babies and clattering trays all around. I gritted my teeth and wrote at work as Toodles the Lab Tech kicked the counter and whined one stool over about her state of boredom hour after hour.
If you love writing, you’ll find the time. It may just be five minutes in a day crammed with ten thousand other demands, but you’ll get it in. You’ll need to write, and you won’t be waiting for the stars to align on a perfectly clean desk with razor-sharp pencil points and the silence of outer space in the room. That is not going to happen, and you shouldn’t wait for it. So it made me laugh when a guy decided against joining our writer’s group years ago. California did not feed his creative muses, and so he was saving to move to Seattle and planned to become a writer there. Apparently, that was where the stars aligned. But if you have a story screaming to come out, it doesn’t care about the stars. You’ll write it in blood if that’s all you have.
Writing should not be a battle for willpower, any more than play is for a child. The only time it has been hard to motivate myself was when I hadn’t spent enough time on plotting, and had written myself into a block because I hadn’t done the necessary work beforehand. Then I would retreat to my notes and expand them until I could see my way through. Once you love your characters and their world, you won’t walk away from them. You’ll write hanging upside down from a tree branch or in line for the guillotine, or with your brother drooling into your hair and a vampire leering at your jugular. You’ll write, and your story will take you along for the ride.