Friday, May 1, 2009

Real Life Versus Writing - Round Two...


As I write this blog post American Idol is on and I’m awaiting the results. I spent the entire day at work plugging numbers into a computer and answering a 5-line phone system. I still have to phone my mom (which I do every Wednesday and Sunday night). And, as usual, two baskets of laundry await sorting and then the rest of the laundry process, which never, ever gets done on its own.

Tomorrow night, after another long day at work, I will need to finish the laundry (because two baskets usually take 3 days – I should really do laundry at regular intervals, not only when I have no lingerie and The Husband has taken to wearing his golf socks). I have to get this post ready to load at midnight, search for a picture that captures my blog meaning, and panic that the formatting doesn’t look right. And I have a coffee date with my friend.

Friday night…well you get the picture.

Real life plays an important role in the life of a writer. Wait, I’m going to rephrase that – Real life plays an important role in the life of an unpublished writer. If I were making good money (and by good money, I mean enough to pay the bills – if I wanted to live in excess, I’d still be teaching), this would be my job. And there would be the expectation that sitting on my butt while the laundry piles up comes with the job. But I don’t make money at this – YET!

The interruptions I spoke of last week are easily handled. Turn off the Internet. Stop reading so many blogs. Set up a schedule where you check a blog or two or click that ‘send/receive’ button on the e-mail at the top of the hour – when you get out of your chair to pour another cup of tea, go to the bathroom, and stretch your back. Then get back to writing. But how do you turn off real life? That laundry does not wash itself.

I think the number one thing to remember is that this is not a hobby. Take your writing seriously. So you’re not getting paid, but you will one day if you’re producing pages today. The old cliché holds true – practice makes perfect. We’ve all heard the story of the writer whose first published book was, in reality, her fourth, fifth or sixth finished manuscript.

If I want to be a writer, then I better write. And the interesting thing is that if I give myself a serious deadline or challenge, I can write while real life continues on around me. Our writing group, SRW, holds a book-in-a-week event every January. I love that week. I write daily, the word count rises, a story is told. Does the laundry get done? Yep. Do we eat? Yep. Do I watch TV? No. So what’s wrong with the rest of the weeks in January? And those in February and March and…

I’m not taking my writing seriously. Real life happens – get over it, Janet. After reading Brenda Novak’s guest blog post yesterday, I have no right to complain about the day job, the friends and family commitments, or the laundry. She writes full time AND organizes/runs a huge on-line auction AND raises 5 kids. She talked about priority and that’s what needs to happen in my life.

So, to kick-start my new resolution to get serious about my writing, I’ve joined some other Sask. Romance Writers in a May Blitz. We have our spring retreat coming up at the end of May and I plan on being in full writing mode, no matter what real life throws at me (and I have a feeling this month will be a real test). To do that, I’m making writing a priority this month – cultivate some good habits and kick those bad habits to the curb where they belong. My goal: write for two hours everyday. This is doable. This will create a daily habit that is easily continued after the month is over. I can make all the excuses in the world, but those will only get me blank pages and frustration and I’m tired of blank pages and frustrations (and laundry, but I’ll never get rid of that chore).

So, People of Blogland, what real life issues interfere with your writing? What strategies do you employ to make writing a priority in your life? If you are unpublished, do you consider your writing a hobby at this point or an educational period before your career is launched?

And if you’re struggling with taking your writing seriously, I share with you this quote that literally gave me goose bumps:

'This before all: ask yourself in the quietest hour of your night: must I write? Dig down into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be in the affirmative, if you may meet this solemn question with a strong and simple, I must, then build your life according to this necessity.' Rainer Maria Rilke

Janet

14 comments:

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Well said, Janet. Real life is definitely harder to avoid than mere internet distractions.

Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, everything piled up during school. Between my full semesters plus evenings of expected readings and essays, and my husband's lengthy, bizarre, and downright unpredictable schedule, we rarely had time or interest in getting cracking on household chores. Even worse if doing dishes means I leave the room while he gets the whole couch! I mean, come on!

But once I finally had a chance to catch my breath, I made some changes. They're not always successful, but they help. We try to do more chores together, because then we're still spending time, and neither has to miss out on something fun. Plus it's a great chance to brainstorm, and we toss ideas around. Folding laundry is also nice and mindless, so I sometimes (rarely) go tackle a pile of clothes when i need to sort out a problem. I should do that more...

The trick of course is maintaining it. Ask me again in three months and see if this is still happening.

Even though I'm unpublished, I consider this my career. School was research, and paying my dues to earn the right to write full time. Now that I have the time, this is my career and it deserves full time work and attention. Hubby considers it my job as well, and he's quite happy to give me the time to work (rather than suggesting that.. since I'm home.. why don't I clean up a little, or something equally worthy of a smack ;) The more I work, the closer he is to retiring and living off my royalties... or that's his dream at least.

Here's to a month of laundry taking second fiddle. I'll be cheering you on through the Blitz. And since I've already written this much on a blog, and it's technically the 1st... time to get some legitimate words typed!

Yunaleska said...

Yay! Someone else who lets the laundry pile up until there's nearly no clean clothes!

Life = I fit it in somehow. To the frustration of my parents, my room tends to get very messy until I give in and tidy it up - on the outside :) Thankfully no-one opens my drawers or cupboards to see the chaos within.

Writing is definitely my career, that I work on all the time, even during my day job. It's amazing what inspiration you can get when putting folders together for students, or photocopying.

I have a few other commitments besides work, and they come first before writing. I've given up spending so much time video gaming and watching dvds, something I hope to return to when (I've been told by a published author not to say 'if') I get published. I keep that delusion with me, and hope its true.

During the week I don't really persue my hobbies so much - writing comes first. However, at weekends I let myself do whatever I wish - which includes writing since that's becoming as natural and as necessary as breathing.

I make writing a priority as much as I can, and its made quite a difference to the whispers from my Muse.

Karen said...

I love your quote, Janet. I want to be a published author. I'm serious about making that happen. Fortunately I have a lot of support from the other people in my house, especially my husband.

As with any household, life happens here on a regular basis. Take today, the first day of May blitz, and I will be cleaning the house and making a birthday supper including chocolate cheesecake for my son who turns 15 tomorrow. Company cometh so the house must be clean and there must be food on the table. No writing today but I will make up for it this weekend while scaling Mount Laundry.

Janet C. said...

Laughed out loud at the 'fight for the couch' comment. And I will ask again in three months if you're sticking to that schedule ;)

I only dream right now of making this a full time job. We chose to work less (in hours/stress/money)in order to have more (if you understand that dichotomy). And that means no writing full time for me - YET! So I envy you your career.

And you can bet on my cheering you on - both for May Blitz and for your career. From what I've read, it's only a matter of time and you'll be guest blogging on The Chicks :)

Captain Hook said...

For me, lately, it's been really hard to keep real life from interfering with my writing. But then again it's been the year from hell for me.

Divorce, giving my ex school-week custody of the kids so they can go to a better school, becoming jobless and homeless. And believe it or not, those are just the tip of the iceberg.

General chaos and life annoyances really aren't that hard to get around. Before this past year, I would do all my normal "Mommy" stuff during the day, then after the kids went to bed, I would take my laptop and head to Denny's (24 hour restaurant for those who don't know). I would stay there writing from about 10 p.m. until 3 or 4 a.m.

It worked great! I got so much done then. Since I'm a night person, those hours are when my brain works the best.

Things are starting to level out. I have some prospects for a job and a place to live, financial help and food donations. So things are starting to look up.

I even started a new WIP today. It's one that I thought of originally a couple of years ago, but never started it. Not even the outline. But I wrote one chapter this morning and am hoping to do more later. (Of course it's on paper, so I still have to type it up.)

I guess my point is that yes, real life can get in the way of writing, but it's more how you feel about real life rather than the events. Now that I feel better emotionally, I find writing to be more enjoyable again.

Janet C. said...

Yunaleska - welcome to The Prairies. I've seen you over on Captain Hook's site, we're glad you wandered over here.

You have a great attitude. 'When' not 'If', working/thinking/prioritizing your writing throughout the day. That will get you where you want to be - and we wish you luck in the pursuit (keep us up to date on your quest).

I, too, try to get as much writing done during the day job as well. I usually have a word document open on the work computer in case any brilliance appears or during my lunch breaks I peck out a few words. At the end of the day, I e-mail it home and delete it from this computer. I also try to do most of my industry blog reading at work - in between answering the phones, inputting data, paying invoices. I just need to keep to that schedule and no open up blogs when I get home and am supposed to be writing :)

And you're very lucky to have a Muse that whispers (as I look over my shoulder to make sure Muse is not reading this).

Janet C. said...

Support from family and friends as we tackle a career that doesn't pay is so important, Karen. And when real life throws a whole day of stuff at us it can be frustrating. But I bet while you're making cheesecake and scrubbing the toilets you'll be thinking of Chase and Lily and where you left them in your manuscript. I consider that writing :)

"Mount Laundry" - between you and Hayley, you're cracking me up.

Janet C. said...

I applaud your attitude and determination, Captain! Most people in situations like that would have given up or at least given up their dreams. You've hinted at your hardships, but you always give us positivity. And your goal of being published, of writing, never wavers. You are a stronger woman than I.

And great job on getting that first chapter done. Looking forward to hearing more about it.

BTW - you are so right about your emotions and your writing. It's hard to write when your down - but I know that if I do, I'll get a little break from my life while I deal with the make-believe life of my characters. It's kind of like exercise - I hate it, but when I do it, I feel better.

ban said...

in many ways i feel i wrote more when i had a job. ideas popped up all the time and i left with a purse filled with scraps of paper covered with ideas - i longed to get home so i could organize them and dreamed of being able to stay home and just work on my stories ... now that i'm a stay at home mom & should have MORE time, i feel i write less :( part of that is because i have two girls, who rightfully deserve my attention and part is because i have a home to clean (which would be easier o/c said girls :) but the biggest reason, i believe, is because that 'hunger' to get home and fill out my outline etc. is gone. it's not that i want to write any less ... hmmmm, how do i better explain this - it's like wanting to get in shape ... you improvise exercizes at home while longing for a gym membership - you finally get the membership but hardly go ... still not sure that makes sense - hopefully you all will know what i mean !

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I soooo know what you're talking about. I am a victim of "life" today. My daughter flew in from Toronto last night. She was supposed to be in at 11:30 but because of problems with the plane and then a snafu with her luggage, we didn't get home until 4 am! I was woken at at 8 am when I heard the dog barfing beside my bed. I'm really dragging my butt today.

I too, am trying to climb Mount Laundry, and I'm also trying to get ready for a garage sale next weekend. Not much writing happening today.

I really admire the Captain's attitude. It is hard to write when you're unhappy, or tired, or distracted but like you said, emmersing yourself in your story's world is good therapy. And I totally agree that real life interferes most when you don't treat it as a real job. I'm afraid I'm guilty of that, or at least I'm guilty of putting other things ahead of my writing at times. It's something I have to work on.

Jana

Janet C. said...

Thanks for jumping in, ban. I'm always a little jealous of those who get to stay home - hours and hours of time to pick up a pen or type out a scene or two. But little people are a lot of work and I commend you for being at home with them in their developmental years (that's coming from the teacher in me). And I can understand the hours available, but never getting more done (it's very much like my weekends - all the time and yet, nothing :)

Your analogy is perfect. And there are other things out there that we covet for days, months, years and then we get it and never use/appreciate it.

Janet C. said...

Jana - already your day sounds like one I would never want to have. Great that your daughter is home, not so great about the problems. And there's nothing worse than waking up to a puking dog. I usually hear the choking and throw back the covers, sprint down the hall in my nightie, and get the door open - hopefully in time to have her do the deed outside.

I already know your month of May is looking wild - I hope you find a little time to write.

connie said...

Hi Janet,
Retired, I have all the time in the world - and get practically nothing done. Laundry can keep my focus all day, or as it used to, get done in two hours while I did eleven other things. Husband, dog, irrascible son, reading, day dreaming, two more sons and a daughter (all adults), all kinds of hobbies, and worst of all STUFF, distract me.
Our home looks like a big box store warehouse, only nothing is in boxes. But, who else has mountains and canyons?
I wish I could have a garage sale! I'd make a fortune. But Husband, two sons and I have spent our working lives working with criminals. Alas, they aren't as fond of, nor grateful to us, as one would hope. Therefore, we have to keep our residences secret. I give away to rummage sales which may well throw my stuff out. Fine -because I never can.
The Amish say you should always have your house in dying order, i.e. the way you would have people see it if you died that day. Grim but sufficiently guilt inducing for some. Not me. Not anymore. I will not care anymore - before or after. I'd rather they tore the house apart looking for free copies of all my published novels.
Meanwhile, I helped think up our May blitz. I like your goal of two hours Janet. Mind if I borrow it?
connie

Captain Hook said...

I am very excited! My life has taken such a turn for the better in the past few days. I have found somewhere to live.

YAY!!

I also have a job (nanny) that starts Monday.

Double YAY!!

So let's hope this trend keeps up so my writing schedule improves.