Thursday, June 11, 2009

Real Life vs Writing - Who's Your Bet On?

Quote of the Day:
It is hard to master both life and work equally well. So if you are going to fake one of them, it had better be work.
~Joseph Brodsky

This question was originally asked by my fabulous Blog Chain buddy, Terri Rainer. Her question was:

Have you ever had anything cause you to step back from writing? If so, what was the cause and how long did it take you to get back into the swing of things? If not, do you have any advice for other writers about not letting life get in the way of writing?

My answer…..yep, yes, yeah, definitely, frequently, more often than I would like, totally, all the time, and FOR SURE!

Writing can be fun. I love it – it’s thrilling to create a world and characters and situations and to see how they all mesh into this wonderful conglomeration of ideas. But it is also work, hard work…it takes time and effort and energy….and sometimes I just don’t have any to spare.

How long it takes me to get back into it depends on what made me step back in the first place. Sometimes Real Life intervenes and I am just too busy with dentist appointments, parent/teacher conferences, sick kids, a neglected husband, and a dirty house to take the time to write. When that happens, I usually just step back for a few days, take care of what I need to take care of, and jump back in.

Now, all this applies to just the last couple years of my life. Before then, I didn’t consider myself a writer. I wanted to be a writer. But I didn’t think I was one yet. I had started more stories than I could count, for as long as I could remember. But I didn’t sit down to write a novel until just before I got married. So writing wasn’t something I really considered as a “must have” for my life. It was something fun I did when I had time. Now, I try much harder to schedule my writing time and I make sure it is a part of my life.

Once I got married, I moved, changed schools, jobs, states, and life got crazy. I didn’t pick it back up again until after my son was born.

Suddenly I was a stay at home mom in a tiny apartment that it didn’t take me too long to clean. So I started to work on my novel again while my son napped. Then my stepkids came to visit for Thanksgiving, I got out of the habit, I got pregnant with my daughter, she was born 2 months early…and before I knew it, two years had gone by. I thought about my novel every now and then. But I didn’t really miss writing.

Then I went back to school and started working on my masters on an accelerated program. I had a month break about halfway into the program, and I was so sick of schoolwork that I wanted to work on something just for fun. I brought out my trusty novel and finished it within the month. And then spent the next year editing…but that is a different story :D

What else will make me take a break for a bit? Sometimes, I get stuck on a scene or a plot twist. When this happens, it may only take me a day or even a few hours before something occurs to me. And sometimes it takes a month or two :D Depends on how bad I’m stuck :D

And then sometimes, I just get tired of it all. Maybe I had just received one too many rejections…maybe I’ve revised so many times I can’t stand to look at my manuscript one more time…or maybe it all just seems like too much effort and not enough reward. When this happens, I might stop writing for weeks. Just recently I went through this for a few months. I spent my spare time devouring every book I could find. I reread my favorite series, I watched movies, I listened to music and chatted with friends, and eventually, I got that itch again…the one that just makes my fingers ache to pound the keyboard. And I sat down one night and started writing again.

I still go days without writing sometimes, due to one thing or another, but I miss writing now…I think about it, I want to do it, and I try harder to make the time. I’m sure another slump will come along, but it too will pass.

Do you have any advice for other writers about not letting life get in the way of writing?

Honestly, no. Because let’s face it…sometimes life IS going to get in the way. There really isn’t anything you can do about it. If writing is important to you, you will come back to it. It might take a few weeks or even a few years before that happens. But if it is something you truly love, eventually you’ll find your way back.

I would advise not to berate yourself for time lost…don’t feel guilty about taking time out of your life to go back to writing, and don’t feel guilty for taking time from writing to deal with Real Life. You may not always be able to juggle Life and writing at the same time. But at some point, if writing is what you really want to do, you’ll ultimately find the time for both.


Eileen Astels Watson said...

Love the "don't berate yourself" counsel. Life is so seasonal, and writing is too. We need to accept that sometimes a break is just what is called for.

B.J. Anderson said...

Thanks for the inspiration! I really believe you have to take a few days off every now and then to recharge. Then when you go back to writing, it feels so good!

I had something a friend say totally stop my writing for awhile because she thought my idea was too controversial. Sigh. That hit me really hard and took me some time to get back into it. But I'm glad I decided to go ahead with it.

The Muse said...

It has taken many years to come to that same conclusion...

There is so much to be drawn from your post of wisdom...I hope others gleam it as well!

Dutch Henry said...

Wow Michelle!!

That is a marvelous post. And for me timely. Especially the line, - "Maybe it just seems like too much effort with too little reward." (Or however you said it.)

I've written four novels now, all gloriously unpublished. (In three years) The first three were frolicking practice. For the fourth though I have high hopes. As you say, WIP, on this one, editing, rewriting - and sobbing while reading beta reader's comments.

I've started my fifth novel but I'm not working at it hot and heavy as I really am concentrating on doctorin' the fourth.

About being worth it. I feel guilty asking so many folks to help me shine up my manuscripts realizing the long odds of publication. No one has ever balked, but still I feel like I'm wasting their time.

I did find your post inspirational…Thank You.

Gitty Up - Dutch

Michelle McLean said...

Thanks for the wonderful comments everyone. I'm so glad others feel the same way and got something from the post! Happy Writing!

Joyce Wolfley said...

My life is definitely in the way right now. I'm trying not to stress about it too much and just get in what I can. Good to know I'm not the only one who finds it happening.

Bish Denham said...

A very timely post for me. I particularly like the quote about using writing as an excuse not to do other things!