By Sherry Peters
A few months ago my teen-aged niece decided she wanted to write a novel. Being the auntie I am, I encouraged her to explore her creativity. It didn’t take long before she asked me how to speed up the writing process. I laughed and told my niece there wasn’t one, that if I lived in the land of Harry Potter, I would invent a quill that would take the story from my mind and write it on its own while I go off and do other things. She was disappointed.
My niece had a point. I don’t know any writer who, at some point or other, hasn’t wished the words would magically appear on the page. The truth is, writing takes time. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are at it, it still takes time. And the time it takes is usually away from our family and friends.
I think that most writers who still have a day job and write wish they could write full-time so that they can spend more time with family and friends.
But books don’t write themselves. And so we decline invitations and tell our children to leave us alone, or we shorten our nights in order to make time to write. It is what we have to do, and probably, for the most part, we don’t mind doing it. We don’t always see it as a sacrifice because we’re pursuing our dreams.
There are, however, plenty of other times when we do see this isolation as a sacrifice. We worry that our kids are going to grow up and tell their therapists they became career criminals because they were abandoned by us. Our friends bluntly ask if we seriously have to write on a Sunday or ask why we can’t take a couple of hours on Saturday for them, even though we’ve told them it’s our only full day to write and any break in the day throws us off and makes it difficult to get back to writing. And families have their own expectations and demands on our time and have a unique ability to guilt-trip us into doing what they ask.
We’re strong at first, able to say no, able to close the door. But the guilt builds up and eventually we give in, setting our writing aside, to be with others. Which means it will take even longer than we’d like to write the story or novel.
Would you give in as easily if you didn’t feel so isolated? What if you had the full support of your family and friends, rather than their sabotage?
Why not join a community of writers? They can help with the technical aspects of writing such as providing feedback and sharing industry news. More importantly, they understand the work, the time, and the effort needed to be a writer. They can sympathize when the rejections or bad reviews come in, and they can celebrate your successes with you. You are not alone so join with other writers and share in the journey.
Go on, or host, writing retreats. I first experienced a retreat with a bunch of writer friends (IFWA, Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) in Calgary, AB. There were thirty of us in a room quietly typing away. We’d break for meals at a local pub and talk shop before getting back to work. I’ve been at a few similar retreats elsewhere since then, and have a few at my home every year. There is something to be said about the energy in a room where everyone is creating. Productivity skyrockets in those weekends. If ever there is a time someone is stuck on a plot issue, there is always someone there to brainstorm with.
Ask your family and friends for their support. They don’t understand how much work it is to write, and they don’t really have to. If it helps, show them the progress you’ve made, show them the finer details that go into writing, explain to them the real ins and outs of the publishing industry, not the Hollywood version. They don’t have to understand what it’s like to be a writer, but they do need to understand why writing is important to you. Tell them. Tell them why you love to write, what you get from it, and what you hope to get from it. Tell them what their support would mean to you and how it will help you succeed. Tell them what specific things might constitute that support. Is it encouraging words? Cooking dinner a few nights a week? Giving the kids their nightly bath? Ask them to support you because they love you.
Surround yourself with people who will be there for you, cheering from the front row of your book launch and commiserating with and encouraging you through the bad days. When we have that support, we don’t feel guilty when writing, which means our writing time will be productive. When we have a more productive writing time, we will be better able to focus on our family and friends when we are with them.
Who is there for you?
Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Sherry graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop and earned her M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her debut novel Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf placed 1st in the 2014 Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards in the YA category. It has also been nominated for a 2015 Aurora Award. For more information on Sherry visit her website.