I don’t have a lot of time to write a post right now. Why? Because I’ve been busy.
Not what I actually look like.
So busy, in fact, that I barely know what to write about this week. But then, that is, in itself, a relevant topic for discussion. Writers, despite a world of misconceptions, are people too. We have to eat and sleep and go on dates and sit politely with our family during Thanksgiving dinner.
And that can be a particularly big problem because writing only really works when there are no interruptions. Putting a story together in a series of seven-minute bursts, separated by hours of interruption, may be technically possible, but most people (including the extra-dedicated writing savants) will get burned out pretty quickly by such a schedule. And burnout leads to failure.
Still not what I actually look like.
So, in the interest of saving your writing life, you have to step up to the plate and deal with the human stuff. For a writer, this is a depressing thought, because if you wanted to deal with human stuff, you wouldn’t be writing.
Nevertheless, it cannot be avoided, so here are a few guidelines on how to navigate this problem.
Approach #1: Letting Real Life Happen
Power is not given you to cancel Christmas, or to wish away your spouse and children, or to keep taxes from happening. They’re going to happen, and they’re seriously going to mess up your schedule.
And you can’t say no to everything. One common misconception is that professional writers don’t keep to a schedule. People are always asking you to do stuff because, “You’ve got plenty of time. It’s not like you work for a living,” not realizing that full-time writers actually work full time to keep the money rolling in. Your schedule is never as open as people surmise.
On the other hand, you do have some degree of control over your hours. You are likely self employed and you can make time for certain obligations outside of writing. So one valid approach to the dealing with the real life stuff is to let it happen, and do your best to live through it like a proper human being.
Approach #2: Learn to Say No
There comes a point where you have to assert your own reality. Good can come from realizing real-world obligations, but there are always real-world obligations. Appeasing them one after another is a surefire way to end your writing career forever.
When the demands of all the outside things becomes ridiculous, you have the right to reject them. And the only way to do that is to work up the nerve to say no, solidly and seriously to all the people who are trying to take advantage of you. This may get a large reaction out of them, but the size of the reaction does not matter. The only thing that matters is whether or not this proffered distraction is essential. If not, then exercise your writer’s sovereignty and say “good day” to the real world before returning to the task of writing.
The concept is not difficult. It only requires a proportionate amount of courage.
I don’t think I could put it better than a certain other author, whom you may have heard of:
Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.
Be wise, be effective, and remember why you’re doing this. And I will thank you for being an inspiration to all of us.
Keep up the good work.
[This week’s tagline: “Where people come…out of spite.”]