They say it suspiciously.
“How do you have time to write?”
You see, I’ve been lucky enough to make my living as a writer/editor for my entire adult life. For the vast majority of that time, I was employed full time by a magazine or, now, a newspaper. And in all that time, I’ve actively kept projects going outside of the workplace. (Never for competing markets, of course, or on stories that I could have written for my employer.)
Sometimes those have been book projects and freelance pieces that were assigned or contracted. Other projects have been speculative–plays, books, even poems–that did not have a guaranteed market. Either way, I’ve devoted a fair amount of what other people would consider free time to telling stories in one form or another. Posting here is yet one more example.
While most people I’ve worked with over the years have embraced this fact about me, there’s often a period of skepticism during the hiring period. The assumption is that someone writing outside the office can’t possibly be devoting full mental energy to creating inside the office. Part of my job is to prove the falseness of that assumption and I’ve hope I’ve done that.
What I’ve never voiced–and what I haven’t really considered until recently–is how selectively targeted that implied criticism is. I’ve never heard anyone ask an employee or colleague “How can you possibly have time to memorize all of those sports statistics?”, “How did you manage to screen all of ‘Breaking Bad’ over the weekend?” or “Isn’t going to the gym so often distracting you from office work?” I think it’s a fair assumption that I spent about as much computer time working on my most recent play as many people have spent playing Candy Crush. Yet their commitment to their full-time employer isn’t questioned. (Unless they are caught doing it on company time, of course.)
I’m not knocking sports fans, TV watchers, or candy crushers. What I am saying is that we’ve all got X amount of time in our lives to devote to whatever we want to devote it to. And it’s very possibly to engage passionately in whatever that is without impacting your “real” job. It might even enhance it.