I woke up this morning with a headache and Shirley Temple’s voice singing “I Wanna Hippopotamus For Christmas” competing for air time in my head. Ugh! Christmas! I’m not a Grinch, by any means, but this is distinctly not my favorite time of year. I’ll skip the rant concerning commercialization, secularization or how rude folk can be in the check-out line. The thing is, for the sake of writing, I’ve just done little or no shopping and the oppressive weight of the 25th is bearing down on me like an approaching thunderhead full of lightening and rain.

Time. The would-be writer’s bane. Either I feel I don’t have enough of it or I feel I’m using it unwisely. For a brief month or more this summer I felt I was in the groove and making the most of it. In reality I may simply have been surfing on all the “free-er” time I had due to vacation. During the work-year, which as of next Thursday at 15:00 will be half over, it is much more problematic.

Nearly all the books on craft I have read, Schmidt, Monteleone, Sellers, Bates, King and Bickham, make it clear that writing is both hard work and time consuming. To get it done, one must dedicate time and energy with discipline and devotion. I am fortunate that of the six sections of English I teach, two of them are honors classes. I am constantly telling them, “Successful honors students are driven to excel, dedicated to their education above all else and are disciplined enough to see ‘it’ to the end. It you don’t have what it takes, step down.”  I realize that every time I say this, I am actually talking to myself: “Successful writers are driven to write, dedicated to their craft above all else and are disciplined enough to see their manuscript through to its fullest potential. If you don’t have it, move on.”

After the NaNoWriMo I feel I have been less than focused and no where as driven, dedicated or disciplined as I should be. My 04:00 writing sessions are lethargic and not producing the successes they did this summer. Time seems to be at issue, but it’s not really ‘time’ per se, so much as it is the demands on that time placing pressure on my productivity and satisfaction. Now, this is a scary thing to admit as it begs the question: if I can’t make time for everything, what will I give up to release some of that anxious pressure in my chest and that sense of impending doom so as to give my writing time room to produce (because I sure as hell, ain’t given up my writing)?

I don’t know.

I presently have five time-competing secular interests and demands that are not seasonal like Christmas shopping, which, regardless of its presently un-done state, will be done by the 25th: family, school, bagpiping, HOL, blogging and Oblivion. In some ways I’m glad, very glad, these are the things that I’ve got threatening me with torrential downpours as they happen to be clearly identified. I would hate to wander around in my head cluelessly looking for the source of my distraction.

Family. This is, of course, a no-brainer. Can’t live without ‘em; can’t kill ‘em and while I wish they were a little more interested in what I’m writing, I am thankful they appreciate what I’m doing enough to give me room to write. I see rainbows, bless ‘em.

School. Of all the demands, this storm cloud is the one I resent the most. I could go on nauseatingly about the state of education. I’m not going to. Suffice to say, that this used to be the thing by which I defined myself: Andre’ the high school English teacher. Federal, state, regional and local politicians and administrators, however, chasing the super-student on the “road to no where” have robbed me of the joy of teaching. From bell to bell when I’m with my kids, I still love what I do, but during the down time when politically driven bullshit resumes its regularly scheduled programming, I hate the career and dream of writing for a living. It gets eleven hours of my day for only seven and half hours of pay and there it is.

Bagpiping. Another no-brainer. It is who I am. My Gaelic heritage, of which I am fiercely proud, calls with all the power of the North Sea. I could no more give up piping than I could writing. In my heart I have been able to convince it to take a back seat to writing, but when the page refuses to give up its secrets, I turn to piobaireachd, play Cumha Mairi Nighean Alasdair Ruaigh or Struan Robertson’s Salute and the world rights itself. I will not attempt to explain how deeply impacting that moment is when the drones and chanter reeds vibrate sympathetically enveloping me in a warm cocoon of sound that can lead me to “…converse with old folks of old affairs.” Suffice to say it would be no more possible to give this up than it would family or to stop working all together.

HOL. Hogwarts Online. So demanding. So satisfying. So amazing. This online simulation is a complex interest to describe. More than Harry Potter, as a teacher, I fell  in love with the idea of a Wizarding school. How cool would it be to attend or teach at such a place? HOL is that option. With joy and surprise I found it directly feeding the writing animal inside me and I have written more short stories and poems as a result of HOL homework assignments and projects than I ever have. Some resulted in Rowlings fan-fiction, I am decidedly unashamed to admit, but more were original works inspired by classes in fairy tales and folk lore. I really don’t want to give that creative stimulation up. Unfortunately, I also worked my way into the lower echelons of HOL administration. As with all positions of responsibility in such a situation, it is time-consuming to create entertainment for others. I struggle with pressure issues there and have not been as present as a Prefect should. It’s not fair to my HOL friends or my writing. It is the single most pressing thought on my mind, one I will admit to avoiding dealing with.

Blogging. Well. I’d like to blog every other day but that rarely happens. In a way, it has taken the place of journaling and though I may not be as ‘all-reveling’ in it, blogging, especially “The Salamander’s Quill,” is the conduit, tiny though it is, I use to inject myself into the writing world from my lonely desk top. It takes care of itself though and is easy neglected for the sake of a manuscript page without the crack of guilty thunder the others above do.

Oblivion. I want to kill the kid who gifted me the game for Christmas. I’ve spent too much time playing just the “…next quest.” I am thirsty to RPG and this is the next convenient thing to it. I think, however, that it is also the most easily marginalized pursuit conflicting with my writing. Problem: it’s fun. Damnit.

And let’s not even mention the upcoming season premiers of Merlin and Camelot. I hope they suck and I won’t want to watch them.

HOL admin and Oblivion? How badly do I want to write? How driven, dedicated and disciplined am I? I need to find out. Now. Before the rains come; I’ve got Christmas shopping to do.

Originally posted in The Salamander’s Quill 1.0 now deleted.