A friend of mine pointed out something very interesting to me today. She said I have spent the last two years talking about writing, dreaming about writing, wishing for time to write…but I really haven’t been writing. Writers write, right? By that definition, I can’t really proclaim myself a writer. Well, maybe I can, since I have been writing for other people through my social media job and ghostwriting. I’ve written a few articles as well, but I haven’t worked on my own fiction. My YA fantasy, Dragon’s Jewel, has been sitting untouched for months. Jewel is not very happy with me about that and has taken to invading my dreams and demanding I complete her story (a petulant princess in my dreams, just what I need).
So the question is: why don’t I work on my own stories? Is it lack of time? Lack of concentration? Lack of motivation? Fear of actual success? Laziness? Fear of failure? The list of possible reasons could go on and on. The end result is it doesn’t really matter WHY I’m not writing – what matters is that I start to write right now. I don’t think there has ever been a writer in history that was published but never actually finished a story. The only sure way to fail is to never try. The manuscript in my head will never make it into the slush pile, let alone out of the slush pile if I don’t actually physically write it. I have to sit my butt in my chair (or on my couch) and tap the story out into my computer. It’s the only way. OK, there are other ways, such as voice recognition software where I can dictate the story and it does the typing, but you all know what I mean. The story has to come out of my head and onto my computer; then it has to come out of my computer and onto paper and into the mailbox in order to reach the intended publisher who will hopefully recognize it as brilliant and offer a publishing contract (a girl can dream, right?).
The key here is motivation; I need to write, I want to write – but how do I motivate myself to actually sit down and dedicate my already spread too thin time to writing? I could schedule time with myself, but then I feel guilty not spending that time with my kids or with my friends who I already see too little of (yes, I know I shouldn’t end a sentence like this, but seriously – who cares other than grammar divas?) Between my kids, work, classes and trying to actually have a social life, my time is spread very thin. I would love to make my writing a priority in my life, but is now the right time to do that? My kids are still young and need (and deserve) a lot of my attention; I’m trying to find more work in order to make ends meet more comfortably (to meet at all, actually) and I’m taking classes toward an add-on certification for my teaching license. I’m trying to start up a side-business on top of all of that and also make some time to go out and enjoy myself on the weekends my kids are with their father. Besides, if I sit at home all the time and don’t get out and experience life, what will I have to write about when I actually DO sit down to write?
I can hear my writing guru friends now: prioritize; write when the kids are asleep; make a schedule and stick to it; keep an appointment with yourself; and so on and so on. I’ve actually given that exact same advice to other writers on Twitter, lol. It’s all well and good to spout advice, but when it comes to taking it – does anyone ever really take their own advice? Do doctors really eat an apple a day? If they do, do they have to keep away from themselves? Do dentists really brush three times a day and floss regularly? Do the diet gurus NEVER eat a Twinkie? OK, maybe the last one is true (Twinkies – have you READ the ingredients? ICK!) Clearly dishing out advice is much easier than actually taking it.
The hard fact is – if I don’t write, I have no chance of being published. Somewhere, somehow I have to eke out some time to write. It doesn’t have to be every day, but it has to be done. The funny thing here is I make it sound like a chore, but it’s the furthest thing from that! I LOVE to write; I love the feeling of my fingers flying across the keyboard as the ideas come flowing out at breakneck speed. I love watching my characters come to life as I dictate their actions and their motivations. I love to watch the words scrawl across the screen as I type them. There are times my fingers move faster than I realize my brain is moving and words appear on the screen that I didn’t even realize I thought. There are times my characters come on so strong that even I don’t know what they are going to do next, but they lead me where they want me to go. The passion to write is there, so I guess I have no choice but to sit my ass in my chair and let the jumble of ideas unfold and form into a story I can be proud of.
Passion is the key here, I think. If there is something I am passionate about, is it fair to myself to push it aside for everything else I feel I have to do? Is it fair to stuff my stories down until I feel I have time to let them out? How much will I miss out on if I do that? How many great stories might I never write because I felt I had to do something else instead of write? Am I being true to myself if I push aside my passion and my dreams and concentrate on my responsibilities only? What about my responsibility to myself? What about my responsibility to my kids? What kind of role model am I when I tell them they can do anything and they should follow their dreams no matter what and then I don’t follow mine? Do I want to look back in thirty years and wish I had followed my own advice and just plopped my ass in a chair for an hour to write? Will it really damage my kids to watch TV for an hour while mommy gets something down on paper? The answers to these and other questions will be answered on the next episode of… (just kidding, it brought to mind the ending of the old TV show SOAP). Can there be a balance between what I NEED to do for my family and what I NEED to do for me?
I think I know the answers here, do you?