Saturday, November 23

Writing is hard

Or rather, perhaps I should say that staying focused enough to finish something is hard. For me, that something is almost always going to be a novel; I really don't have the mental hardwiring to do short very well or very often. But even if you're a short story writer, you'll have to spend as much time doing it--if you want to be successful--as a novelist.
 
Being a writer (assuming you have dreams of publication), means writing every day--or nearly so. It means missing out on your favorite TV show (thank goodness for DVR), and saying to your friends, when they invite you out, "no thanks, I have to get some work done on my novel." If you're lucky enough to already have a book or two out, chances are better that they'll take you seriously than if you haven't gotten that first book published, yet. Until you're holding that first contract in your hand, writing may very well be perceived as a hobby, or worse, a passing fancy.
 
You know, as if it wasn't hard enough for you to carve out the time to sit down and work, already.
 
For me, the hardest part is finding the peace and quiet, and the motivation all at the same time. Usually I have one but not the other. The fact that I have a forty pound hairless lap dog probably doesn't help. If I try to go into my office to work, he whines at the door until I let him in. Once in, he gives me those sad brown eyes as he looks wistfully at my lap. Just to make me feel guilty, he starts to shiver. I've started using my office for storage and writing in the big comfy chair in the family room, where there's room for two--three if you count my laptop--and cover him up.
 
And today, since he's still in bed with "Dad" (my hubby), the cat has decided to take his place with me in the chair. Seriously, there's no peace for the wicked around here  ;-)
 
I'm just grateful that I have a supportive family who understands, especially my husband and


daughter who were behind my writing even before I got my first contract. They didn't care if I was doing it for money (*no* author I know actually does this for the money, although trust me, we love you for buying our books!), or for fun (i.e. penning thousands of words of fanfiction every week), they just knew it was something I enjoyed and made sure I had the time and relative peace to do it.
 
Not everyone is so lucky. I would never suggest to anyone to make their spouses' refusal to support their writing a reason for divorce--but it might be a reason to examine what other areas your family isn't being supportive. (And there's certainly room for compromise; my husband is absolutely wonderful which means that sometimes I do tear myself away from the keyboard so we can watch TV together or go to a movie. It's only fair, since he doesn't grumble when I take my laptop with me on vacation and spend at least an hour or two holed up somewhere writing).
 
Some years ago--on the very weekend that I got the flash of inspiration that turned into Heat's Home, in fact, I attended a great talk at a convention about living the creative life. The things the presenter said really hit home.
 
Being a professional artist--whether that means being a painter, a sculptor, a musician, a writer, an actor, or any other creative endeavor--is hard work. If you can make your living any other way, DO IT. 
 
That was very difficult to hear, but the more I thought about it, the more I agreed. This job is far more rewarding, but far, far harder than any other job I've ever done. I don't just punch a clock and go home. I don't just work eight hours a day. Some day, when the Muse is feeling stubborn or uncooperative, all I have to show for my work is a couple of hundred words. It's frustrating. It's even more frustrating when I realize that this is how I make my living, and if I don't write, the bills don't get paid. (Thankfully, my husband is gainfully employed, but really, we need two incomes to make our lives work. That's just one reason why we're looking at moving out of the 3 bedroom house in the suburbs and into a 2 bedroom apartment.)
 
Being a professional artist may mean making some hard choices. Like I said, we're looking at moving out of our house and into an apartment. It's not just about the mortgage payment (although that's definitely a factor, suburbia is NOT cheap), it's about me not having the time to spend on the yard and the yard...well, I'm surprised it took the neighbors as long as it did to complain  ;-)  I'll pot up some of my plants to take with us when we go, a patio is a necessity, but I can't afford to spend 4-6 hours in the garden every day during the summer. Spring clean up takes considerably longer.
 
Being a professional artist may mean letting some friendships go. My ex husband said once that I would never get a book published, I wasn't good enough. This might have been an honest critique if he'd ever read anything I wrote. He hadn't--and his comment wasn't the reason for our divorce, but it was indicative of a long history of problems, many of which had to do with his lack of support for the things that I cared about or wanted to do. If you've got someone in your life who tears you down rather than being supportive (and yes, being supportive sometimes means telling you honestly that you need to take a class or find a mentor to help you hone your craft), it may be time to examine the friendship more closely. Real friends will encourage you to follow your dreams. Not-so-real friends will only hold you back.

Some people are simply threatened by others' success (I'm pretty sure my ex was threatened by anything I did outside the home.) Others are just so stuck in the grind (and perhaps happily so) and the security that comes with it, that they can't see outside the 9-5 box.

There's some good news, though: You'll make new friends. Seriously, one of the best parts of getting my first book out there has been the wonderful people I've met and the friendships I've developed. 
 
Artists understand each other. Other writers don't think you're being rude when you pull out your laptop to get in a little writing before dinner and they think about calling Bellevue when you start talking about how your characters are taking over the story, refusing to do what you want them to.  They pour you a cup of tea or a glass of wine and commiserate. 
 
So yes, being a writer is hard. Finding the time and the focus to put the words on the page is hard. Juggling with friends and family and making tough choices...well, they call them "tough" choices for a reason. But in the end, if this is really want you want to do, it's worth it. Not for the money, not for the fame, but for the sheer satisfaction of doing what you love most--the one thing you can't live without doing. Writing. Art. Dance. Theatre. Whatever your passion is, if it is truly your passion, grab on, don't let go, don't give up. Don't turn back.
 


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