Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sacrifices



Ask any writer and they'll likely be able to tell you what they've sacrificed to be one, but this leads some writers to fall into a martyr mentality. And in my case, instead of leading to martyr mentality, it leads to a lot of guilt.

Part of my guilt comes from the fact that I write full time. Theoretically. That is, right now, I don't have another job demanding my time. (Although I do need to get one...) Many of my writer friends with jobs and kids or both are jealous of this, thinking, I'm sure: if only I had all the time Maureen had, I'd write five books a year. And this makes me feel lazy and guilty and like a failure at times.

But before I get all maudlin on you, know that I am able, almost always, to shrug those feelings off. Because I know that no matter how many hours a writer has available, sitting down, concentrating, keeping focused to produce words and sentences and pages is hard, hard work. In fact, at times I find the busier I am with other things, the easier it is to concentrate on the writing. That is, if I only have 2 hours, I'll use those 2 hours, whereas when an entire day stretches out in front of me, I procrastinate and waste time and slack. (Yes, Sinead, I know. I need to get me a job.)

I've taken a lot of flak from a family member (who thinks she understands writing, because she was a literature major in University) for referring to what I do (or endeavor to do) each day as "work". And yet nearly every successful writer I've heard or read on the topic says one of the keys to their success is to consider it work -- to show up every day, even when they don't feel like it, and to have some sort of feeling of responsibility to the "work".

I recently listened to a talk from a past RWA session, and I wish I could remember who was speaking right now... or who they'd been talking to... but let's just say Successful Romance Writer met Successful Literary Writer at a conference or cocktail party, or something.

SRW self-deprecatingly said to SLW, "I don't write anything as high brow as you." (SLW may have in fact been a well-respected non-fiction writer, or reporter. I missed the details. I was listening in my car and couldn't rewind.)

But the point is that SLW responded, "No matter what we're writing, all writers are just blue collar workers in the end, getting words down on the page."

I'm not sure I 100% agree with the blue collar worker analogy, but I get and appreciated what the man said to SRW. He acknowledged that it takes a strong work ethic to be a writer, and that beyond the creative part, beyond the intellectual part, beyond the fun part, beyond the stuff that makes us feel smart or clever or like god ;-) ... it comes down to work in the end. Writers can't afford to wait for inspiration to strike, they need to work to make it strike.

I read somewhere that Sommerset Maughn was once quoted as saying he only wrote when inspiration struck -- it just so happened that inspiration struck him every morning at 5:00 am when he sat down at his typewriter. And I'm coming to believe that's the key. Writing every day (or at least on a schedule, as if it's a job.)

So that's what I've been trying. And so far, I haven't been entirely successful. In fact, this very moment is my scheduled "work on my novel" time and I'm, um, not doing that, because I watched TV last night instead of writing this post. But I'm working toward an everyday at the same time schedule. So many things in life take practice to become habits and I'm refusing to beat myself up right now for not instantly falling into a new pattern of behavior. Instead, I'll endeavor to do better tomorrow.

And give up TV? Get serious.

12 comments:

Kimber Chin said...

Writing IS work. It is darn hard work. And what makes it hard is writing when I don't feel like writing.

I have to force myself to get started every darn day. Once I'm started, I'm fine though. Happy as a little clam.

Sinead M said...

Finding motivation is ridculously hard, whether you have an hour, or ten.
Anyone who sits down and writes should be commended, especially when we don't know if that work will be published or now.
so my hat is off to you.

And give up TV? hell no, it's a source of inspiration, a way to explore different kinds of storytelling.

TV can always be justified.

Eileen said...

I'm not giving up TV, exercise, quilting or red wine. So shoot me. Or maybe I'm just shooting myself.

Travis Erwin said...

I never have been a TV'er but I have sacrificed a few fishing trips for the sake of my writing time.

Stephanie Doyle said...

What Eileen said...except the quilting.

Although my morning writing time has now gone to morning excersise time.

I find it physically impossible to be both productive w/ writing and in shape.

So I can feel guilty about my weight or guilty about my pages.

Is the guilt a writer thing too?

Or is that just me being Irish Catholic?

Kristen Painter said...

I know I watch way too much tv, but it's like a brain vacation after sitting in from of the computer all day, so it stays. And yes, writing is hard work. Some days it kills you, some days it renews your soul.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Thw good thing about kids this age is that I have to be home so they can nap - it serves me well. And I get more done in two hours than I did when I was writing all day. That said - if I added the hours after the kids went to bed, or even just one of the hours -- oh boy. But then who would watch night after night of dance shows. Honestly - this stuff doesn't watch itself.


Though i agree with sinead - bad tv is a vaction, good tv is a master class. Mad Men is KILLING me.

Quilting, Eileen? I never would have pegged you as a quilter. Bass player in an all girl rock band - yes. QUilter comes as a surprise.

Eileen said...

Ooh. I love you think I'm more of a rocker than a quilter. Does it help that I'm one of the worst quilters ever?

Also, as long as we're talking about TV . . . is anybody else even a little fascinated with Durham County Secrets?

Maureen McGowan said...

Durham County Secrets... Is that what they renamed Durham County when they sold it to the US market?

It was on a pay-tv station up here almost 2 years ago (debuted sometime in 2007) and the first season was on broadcast TV last year. The cable station aired the (very short) second season this summer. Equally creepy. Very glad to hear you guys are getting it in the US, assuming I'm right about what you mean..

Are they showing the first season now, Eileen? The one where they find the two girls in the woods?

I heart Hugh Dillon. He's the former lead singer of a rock band and was famous for spitting on the crowd. LOL. Almost unrecognizable with hair. check them out on youtube. He's also in the Canadian made TV show Flashpoint, which I think you guys get on CBS. It's a smart show, too.

Anonymous said...

He acknowledged that it takes a strong work ethic to be a writer, and that beyond the creative part, beyond the intellectual part, beyond the fun part, beyond the stuff that makes us feel smart or clever or like god ;-) ... it comes down to work in the end.

Anyone care to share the parts of their writing that make them feel like God? Always interested to know how the all important spirituality of characters is blended into the storyline.

Anonymous said...

I heart Hugh Dillon. He's the former lead singer of a rock band and was famous for spitting on the crowd. LOL.

Oh, he sounds like all class, eh?

Anonymous said...

I know I watch way too much tv, but it's like a brain vacation after sitting in from of the computer all day, so it stays. And yes, writing is hard work. Some days it kills you, some days it renews your soul.

Though i agree with sinead - bad tv is a vaction, good tv is a master class. Mad Men is KILLING me.

No kidding. TV has to stay, it is a complete brain vacation, like any other form of entertainment. Mindless entertainment, love it!

And all so ridiculous, always good for a laugh! Not so sure there is any 'good' TV these days though. Really struggling to find something along that caliber myself. So, guess I'm stuck with the 'bad' tv vacations!

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