W. P. Johnson

Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Twenty-four Hours

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

BJohnson054Much Tired. Very.

My goddamn feet hurt.

This is usually the first thing I think when I wake up in the morning. They’re called heel spurs and they can, under the right circumstances, develop into something more serious and require surgery. I get them because I work in a restaurant and am constantly on my feet.
I don’t care much for working in restaurants. On one hand, I like the people I work with, the money is good, and it’s a pretty easy job to do. Sometimes I even wait on guests that treat me like an actual human being and for a brief moment I enjoy working with food. On the other hand, it’s long hours, physically draining, and there are plenty of people that see dining out as an opportunity to treat servers like dogshit, servers who are then expected to react with perfect aplomb. Unlike your typical day job where you can go in and have an “off day”, no such thing exists in the service industry. An “off day” in a restaurant means ringing in the wrong food, not smiling, spilling something on someone by accident (or on purpose). In an office job you can get away with an off day. In a restaurant job, you just get fired.
The long and short of it is that a restaurant job can be stressful. But the reason I do it is because it affords me the time to write.

Sort of…

Recently I saw something online that drove me absolutely batshit crazy. I won’t say which writer did this, nor will I even give enough details for anyone to figure it out (unless you’re this writer in question). But I will give the basic gist of it. This person has been writing for quite some time now, has gotten published, and wants to take that next step and write their novel, but they simply don’t have the time to do so because of their job. So this person has decided to ask for donations so he/she can quit their job and write full time.

Now… don’t get me wrong, I’m a supporter of kickstarter in certain circumstances. For instance, Nightmare Magazine began as a kickstarter and have successfully went on to produce a monthly magazine for the past year. There are many variations on kickstarter: fundly, gofundme, crowdfunder, etc. Because I’m living paycheck to paycheck, I rarely donate, but I don’t begrudge people for participating if they can spare a few bucks here and there for a project or someone’s hardship. The thing is, this aforementioned writer asking for money really irked me because that’s not what it means to be a writer.

I’ve considered going back to school for my MFA or Masters in English. In speaking with a college professor on the matter of MFAs, she jokingly stated that “everyone thinks they’re a writer”. But what she really means is that everyone wants to be a writer, but no one really wants to do the work required of a writer. They want to wax poetic in workshops and weekend retreats, attend seminars and rub shoulders with the greats, authors that will be encouraging and validate their students’ decision to go into massive credit card debt so they can afford 2-3 weeks off from work to write. They want to write a blog that’s well read and have their stories accepted by pro paying markets. If only they had the time to do it! After all, Stephen King doesn’t have to work a day job and he’s able to write more than a novel a year. Therefore, the missing element in this equation is free time.

Only, it’s not.

You see, Stephen King didn’t have the time to write. He taught full time at a high school, raised a family, and if memory serves me right, he worked a second job during his summers off from teaching. He didn’t have those weekend retreats, seminars, or workshops. He wrote in the goddamn laundry room of his trailer (read his On Writing for a more in depth description of these early days). And he never asked anyone for money so he could quit his job and write full time. Because there are always a few extra hours in the day to write.
As to myself, you might say that I’m being unfair seeing as how I decided to work a restaurant job in order to afford me the free time to write. But the truth is, it doesn’t really afford me any more time than an office job would. Fact is, I’ve worked an average of 45-50 hours a week for the past three months and in that time I’ve managed to continue to write. I write in the mornings, during my lunch break, and on my days off. How much did I get done? Admittedly, not as much as I’d like, but to give you an idea of my average output, I started my first novel in February and am currently at the hundred page mark.

Now I could, feasibly, get more work done if I worked an office job since it would be less hours. But the truth is, I simply can’t afford it. This also means that I can’t afford to give another writer money so they can have more time to write, time that I desperately need myself, time that I’ve managed to somehow find throughout my fifty hour work week.

So if you want to write, just pour some coffee and write before you go to work, or after you get home. Or develop a substance abuse problem like Stephen King (uppers, not downers) (kidding, don’t develop a nasty coke problem). Or write snippets of your novel in notepads while you’re waiting for the bus or in line at the DMV (I mean, what else are you doing there besides checking facebook?). Write during your breaks and on your days off. Find those hidden hours. Trust me, there are twenty-four of them in a day and chances are you’re wasting a few on TV and the rest on sleep. So turn your TV off and sleep one less hour. I guarantee it will make a huge difference.

Besides, writers are supposed to look tired. Not well rested and tanned after their weekend retreat in Key West.

And if you really get desperate, start waiting tables. Your feet will hurt, but your mornings will be free and if you can stand the long hours, you can work all your shifts in 3-4 days. Plus the money ain’t all that bad either.

Until next time, here’s to being scary.