In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner said that the best job for a writer to have was a spouse willing to support him or her. Lest any of his readers feel guilty about such an arrangement, he went on to say that the husband or wife in question should feel it was a privilege to get that close to the creative process.
I find this proposition unrealistic, irritating and, most of all, arrogant. I have also discovered it true. Writing gurus preach that you can always find time to write if you want to. Even I — mea culpa — have asserted this often, in seminars and in my writing book. “Start with ten minutes a day. Get up ten minutes earlier. Don’t wear make up.”
Right. Like I would leave the house without it.
Now this is not a public self-flogging. (I charge people money to watch that.) My “start with ten minutes” is still good advice, if I do say so myself, for getting unglued from the excuse of having no time to write. All Americans know that one can get a perfect body, cook a three-course meal or write a novel in just ten minutes a day. (And the first 100 callers get a copy of my new DVD, Scale Mount Everest in Your Sleep.)
The more time you have to write, the luckier you are. The higher a priority you can make it. Yes, one of the first things a writer learns is not to wait for inspiration but to go out and stalk it, while heavily armed and wearing a sturdy pair of hiking boots. But when you have bagged inspiration and hauled it back to your campsite (leaving a trail of your own blood), then it’s damn frustrating to see that it’s time for work or to remember that it’s your snack week and you forgot the freakin’ flour-free, sugar-free cookies (without nuts; someone might be allergic).
So if you are lucky enough to have that spouse or parent or windfall from an Internet start-up to allow you to quit your day job and hire household help if necessary, be very, very grateful. If someone is supporting you, it is not his or her privilege; it is his or her gift to you.