This blog post is primarily for all of you practicing and aspiring authors out there who struggle to make the word counts rain while holding down a day job, a family, one or more hobbies, pets, world domination, an illegal panda trafficking ring, co-ed slip-and-slide tournaments, or whatever the hell else you horrible people are into.
Welcome to The Fistful for the Author Support Blog Hop. I’d like to walk you briefly through my life as a writer.
To start off with… I’ve been at this for ten years, plus or minus. To be more specific, that’s when I started writing for the purpose of getting published. It wasn’t until I’d wrapped revisions on my seventh novel, The Curse Merchant, that I decided I was ready to put it forward for consideration by industry professionals. I spent a year querying before deciding to self-publish. I then went on to write the sequel, The Curse Servant. Just prior to releasing Servant, I was put in touch with the literary marauders at Curiosity Quills. One thing led to another, and they ended up signing the entire Dark Choir series. In the space between then and the re-release of Curse Servant, I’ve been busy hammering out short stories and a new stand-alone novel which has me pretty damn excited.
How do I do it? How do I find time to write?
I’m not a full-time writer (yet). I do, in fact, have a day job. For those of you who are interested, I work in the city of Baltimore for an office furniture manufacturer. My boss is aware of my aspirations to transition into full-time writing, and he supports that… which is pretty amazing in itself.
Nonetheless, the day job is an hour away from home. That’s two hours each day sacrificed to the gods of commuting. On top of that, I have a wife and a son who take priority over everything else in the entire Universe. I’ve resolved long ago never to crimp my family’s well-being in the pursuit of a writer’s lifestyle.
We work out at the gym three to four times a week. That’s another two hours (including the drive to the gym, workout, shower, etc.) committed to that.
I’m also a homebrewer… regular followers of this blog know that already. I commit to semi-regular beer-related events, meetings, gatherings, festivals, etc. at least three times a month. On top of homebrewing, I’m a National-ranked BJCP beer judge, which means I find myself dedicating Saturdays to beer competitions every so often.
Then there’s the dog. She has to eat, drink, pee, poop, and play an amount of Frisbee-fetch that borders on obsessive.
Cram a lot of that into one day, and when Homeslice Jr’s bedtime rolls around, you’ll find me sitting at my laptop, a single bead of drool tracing a line from the corner of my mouth to the space bar.
Energy drain… it’s the biggest obstacle this writer faces. How do I manage to find the will to write after reaching the point of bone-wearying exhaustion?
Answer: sometimes I don’t.
Oops… this was supposed to be miracle blog post to show you the secret to writing success, wasn’t it? Well, hate to break it to you, but there is no miracle cure for having a life. As a wise man once told me back when I first started writing: “You’ll never find the time to write… you have to MAKE the time to write.”
So I do. From eight-thirty to ten at night I tend to hammer out between 1500 and 2000 words. I don’t make it every night, though I feel like King Failure of the Failure Tribes of West Failure when I do. Sometimes I scrape for motivation. Sometimes it comes easy. Sometimes it sits on my computer like a spectral catball and glares at me until I go away.
When I do manage to muster the will, I do find it helpful to bear the following in mind:
1. It’s possible I might never earn enough from my writing to quit my day job. However, if I don’t commit to as much writing as I can now… it’ll be an absolute certainty. I keep my eyes on the prize. I know what I want. And instead of wallowing in uncertainty, I kindle the hope. Hope that I’ll succeed.
And the only way out is through.
2. I have to stay connected to others who are going through the same thing. I have a critique group I attend once a month, and beyond the advice and manuscript deconstruction we offer one another, we tend to lend an ear for our peculiar bellyaches. Writers have a specific set of anxieties which only other artists can really understand. If I didn’t have other writers to vent to, either in person or online (NETWORK, PEOPLE!!!), I’d easily buy into the assumption that this was a pointless endeavor.
3. There’s always going to be someone who’s better at this than I am. It’s like going to the gym. I know I’m only bench pressing 115 pounds, and if I looked to my right and saw Stafford Manchisel pounding out 300 pounds without breaking a sweat, I’d assume I was a noodle-armed slackard and give up. But just because someone else is successful, that doesn’t mean I won’t be… or even that I’m not already. Once I stop comparing myself to other writers and start focusing on the quality of what I have written, it’s easier to improve.
4. I must write what I enjoy reading. Writing outside of my comfort zone is fine… writing outside of what I find appealing? Not such a great decision. Anything born from a miserable writing experience tends to become a miserable reading experience. Which means…
5. I must keep reading. I must read widely. I must read successful, quality works within my chosen genres. If I don’t, then I’ll never know a cliche or a tired trope when I see it. I won’t know quality prose when I write it. My advice to my critique group won’t be as valuable. Those inner demons will be more effective in their needling. Just gotta keep reading.
Well, these aren’t cure-alls. They’re just thoughts. These thoughts have kept me going, and going strong. But I do happen to have a secret weapon that not everyone has access to.
See… she’s a writer, too. And generally speaking, when the boy’s in bed and I’m cracking out the manuscript, she’s pulling hers out, too. When one of us is feeling tired, but the other is ready to write, we get positive peer pressure. Hell, it’s positive spousal pressure. She’s available as an alpha reader, as I am for her. She never begrudged my pursuit of publication, and was the first to celebrate with me when I signed my contracts… as I was when her short story was published in the Burial Day anthology.
Writing is a family value in our household. It’s a focus. Neither of us allows it to define our family, but it certainly helps that it’s a welcome and familiar presence in our lives.
So… aspiring author. Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to float them my direction in the comments section below. I’m available on Tumblr and Facebook as well. I try to be flippant and distracting, but honest as well.
Just don’t ask me about pandas. Big Tony hates it when I “go public.”
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