During a recent presentation to college students about entrepreneurship in the arts, I asked the class what they thought a freelance writer did with her time all day. Their guesses included “thinking about character development” and “writing,” and bless their hearts, that would be amazing. But as any freelance writer can attest, the business of pitching stories, research, contacting sources, waiting for sources to call back and interviewing sources takes up the bulk of one’s life. So much, in fact, that I often (or, rather, daily) find myself with this problem: I feel so accomplished by the time I finally hang up the phone after an interview call, that I’m all, “Done! I’m finished! Let’s go fishing or whatever!”
That is, I check an assignment off the list, not when it’s done, but when everything but the writing is done, as if the writing is the least important part of the – ahem – writing process. The logic (if you could call it that ) behind this habit is that I don’t stress about writing the stories. I know how to that. I can do it at whatever time of day I want and it isn’t dependent on anyone else. For these reasons, and because I find it difficult to predict how long a story will take to write (there are so many factors! Including emotional ones.), I typically relegate actual writing tasks to evenings and weekends when there are fewer time constraints.
Until the weekend comes, and I have an overflowing pile of stories in my digital “I’ll get to this later” box. It’s a problem, and I’m acknowledging it with the hopes of getting better at it. Writing is, indeed, 90 percent preparation, or whatever that cliché says it is. But that doesn’t negate the importance of that last ten percent, which includes the actual writing and rewriting that is the very core of this craft.
So today, when I was tempted to celebrate after getting off the phone with my final interview of the week at 10am on a Friday, I decided to stay put in my office. I wrote down all of the stories I have to write this weekend and realized I shouldn’t be feeling quite so accomplished with all I still have to accomplish. So it’s my plant to focus on writing this afternoon, during the day, even though no deadlines are looming at midnight. Because the actual writing is always the most important part of writing – just as those college students assumed – even when the business of being a writer can often overshadow that fact. And thus, I will get to it.
Right after I take Lois for a walk. Because with all my interviews for the week done so early on Friday I do deserve a little bit of an adventure, right? Lois thinks so.