Since today is the two-weeks-till-publication-day, I've been thinking about time, and about writing, and how it all works. I wanted to write this post to offer advice to people who feel discouraged about their writing - people who feel like it's impossible to juggle 'real' life and writing life. I'm by no means an expert, but I got this far, and that has to be worth something, right?
So here are some thoughts on Making Time to Write, and Getting the Words Down on the Page, and other such noble things.
Act like a professional (and don't go bowling)
One of the hardest things about starting to write is that it often feels silly, inconsequential, self indulgent or downright daft. I know I felt guilty - actually guilty - about writing, as if I were tempting fate with my arrogance. Did I really think I could be a writer? Really? Why didn't I just give up and admit that it was a pipe dream? Why didn't I just put down the pen and go watch TV? I was being so stupid, the voice said. I was being so naive. It was embarrassing. It was comedic. It was so damn stupid.
Those thoughts are terrible, but they happen. I still, occasionally, feel like I'm fooling myself, and that the sheer amount of work it takes to finish a novel is too much. Imagine standing at the bottom of a cliff and looking up. There's always a little voice that says you couldn't possible get to the top - that you're not a bird, damn it, and we all know what happened last time you tried to climb that tree at Auntie Gladys' retirement party, and wasn't that so embarrassing? But there's another voice, too, and it's an odd one, and it's quiet at first, but it says the best thing of all: You know what? You might be able to. You probably could, actually. Why not do it? Why not try?
Trying isn't everything, but it's the start of everything. That's why I think acting as a professional matters. You have to look at writing as more than a hobby. Treat it like a second job. Friends want to go out? You can't - you have work to do. Tired at the end of the day and really want to watch endless reruns of FRIENDS? That'd be nice, but you have a deadline in the morning, and the boss will find out if you try to skip it.
Damn that boss, always looking back at you in the mirror.
So, yes. Sometimes writing it more important than bowling, even if it means you'll miss all the fun.
Remember you're just doing it for fun (and don't go mad)
Yeah, I know - contradictory, isn't it? Well, welcome to life. For everything I said above, you can't let writing become a chore. No one, after all, is making you do it, and for all you might need the money, most of us will have second jobs, or spouses, or other things that take up time. That's okay - in fact, it's crucial. How you can write if you're not out there, living life? What's more, how can you write if you come to dread the thing you used to love? Burnout happens, and no one loves a good despondent whine more than artists, but working too much - writing too much - will leave you bitter at yourself, and no good comes from that. I work as writer at my day job and my author job, and sometimes I sense - deep down, where things can really hurt - that I need to step away from the words and breathe.
This is the paradox, I think - that you have to be a professional, you have to claw writing time away from everything else in your life, and then you have to watch out that you don't swing too far the other way, into madness and obsession and 'Here Lies Simon, A Writer Till The Tragic End' territory.
The big question, then, is this: How do you find the balance?
I have no idea.
I know that, for me, it means writing every week but not necessarily every day. I know it means having more than one story on the go at the same time, to give me a break, to work different creative muscles, and so I can huffily walk away from one story, if it isn't working out, without having to stop writing cold turkey.
Time is weird. Writing is also pretty weird. Finding out how they work together - how you write stories when other things have to happen, like tea and breakfast and buying clothes and finding out where the children went - is an adventure that begins at the start of every writers' journey. I hope anyone reading this manages to find their balance.
And also, maybe, that you'll read my book at some point.
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