"Whatever you're meant to do, do it now.
The conditions are always impossible."
That quotation, from Nobel prize-winning Doris Lessing, is on an old, curling post-it note above my writing desk. It’s been there awhile. It’s given me strength.
The quotation nicely encapsulates what I’ve come to accept: that if you’ve decided that what you’re meant to do is write, you must write where and when you can.
Because the conditions are always impossible. Our lives are often full to bursting, sometimes even chaotic. Maintaining another career, caring for family, ageing parents and pets, doing laundry, groceries, meal preparation; the list goes on and on.
The point is that you can’t wait for the perfect office, the empty house, the uninterrupted hours or a completely settled mind to begin to tell your stories. You will be waiting forever.
I’ve blurted out all my stories in pieces, fifteen minutes here, an hour or two there. When I started writing about 12 years ago, I had three small children at home. I soon found that if I was going to write at all, I was going to have to grab what time I could get. Any time. Naptimes. Early bedtimes. An escape to a coffee shop. Furtive scribbling during a DVD. Even, occasionally, in a locked bathroom.
I have written on buses and trains and planes, and in school gyms waiting for the game to start. I’ve written a lot in my car, waiting for a child’s sports practice or rehearsal to finish, or the school bell to ring.
I’ve explored my characters or plotted their actions in my head in the grocery check-out line, or while driving a van-load of children to a birthday party.
As my youngest entered full-time school, I thought the writing conditions would become more possible. They didn’t, or at least not for long.
Out of the blue, I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, and caught up in a year-long whirlwind of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and then a five-year clinical trial.
It was in this very bleak time that Doris Lessing’s quotation took on a new meaning. The first part of the quotation became particularly resonant: “whatever you’re meant to do, do it now.” Don’t put it off. Don’t wait.
Nobody knows what’s around the bend. I sure didn’t. All the uncertainty and stress lent an urgency to my writing. I didn’t honestly know how much time I might have left. I made lists of all the stories I had in me, waiting to get out. I wrote feverishly in waiting rooms, in the chemotherapy ward, whenever I could gather the energy for it.
Writing gave me a purpose. My yet-unwritten stories gave me hope, even in the most impossible of conditions.
I am fortunate enough to be almost seven years removed from that time, with my tenth book released this spring. And I’ve learned this: if you are meant to be a writer, write. And write now; it will be a long and futile wait for the perfect time. Because there is no perfect time, and none of us knows how long it will last anyway. The conditions will always be impossible.
But the act of writing brings nothing but possibilities.
Author Website: https://www.alisonhughesbooks.com
KASEY & IVY is available Spring 2018.
Alison Hughes is an award-winning writer who has published ten books for children, from picture books to YA. She holds degrees in English and law. She taught university, worked for nonprofits, and did research and writing for different governments and organizations before discovering creative writing is her real passion. She gives workshops and presentations at schools, libraries, young author conferences and festivals all across the country, and volunteers with children’s literacy organizations.
Alison enjoys walking her dogs, reading actual newspapers, riding her mountain bike, and pawing through thrift shops. She loves to travel, but can usually be found at her computer with a cup of tea, some chocolate and three loudly-snoring dogs by her side. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband, three children and assorted pets.