Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Is Not My Life

Years ago, when I first began exploring online writers' forums, I kept seeing members declare, "Writing is my life!" Some would go on to brag about how all-consuming their writing was, about how they had no friends, no time for other activities. At times, especially when I saw one of them making strides toward publication, I wondered if they were right. Would only those who poured everything into their writing succeed? If that was true, there was no hope for me.

See, as a young adult, I'd already learned the painful lesson that writing was not my life and never could be. It's sometimes tempting to let myself disappear into a world of my own creation, to completely give in to my drive to write and to succeed as an author. But I married and had children young, and they needed me to be more than a writer. Just being a member of my newly created family made it clear to me that there was more I had to be. Was I doomed to failure as a writer, then? Did successful writers shut out their families and the world?

Soon enough, I noticed that veteran writers didn't throw around that phrase. They managed to finish books and publish them without being swallowed up by their desire to write. What a relief! But this realization was more than a relief, because not only is there more I have to be, but there's more I have the privilege of being.

Now I'm so grateful to be able to say, "Writing is NOT my life." And when I hear people say, "Writing is my life," I cringe. Because what happens when writing doesn't seem to be going anywhere? When the dream seems to come crashing down around us? When all the work appears to be for nothing? Every writer has those moments. I've certainly had my share. And during those times, the people who loved and needed me, and the other purposes I had, were what kept me going.

Living a full life has done more than help me through the tough times in my writing life; it's enriched my writing in ways I never expected. Though there are many other aspects of my life that impact my writing, the clearest example of this is how the time I've spent practicing and coaching judo has fueled my Venture series. From the real personalities that help me to shape realistic characters, to the struggles I've observed and shared on that mat, which shape the story's themes, to the technical knowledge that helps me write about fighters, this series would not be what it is if I hadn't peeled my rear end off of my chair and gone to judo practice.

Though I love judo, I used to worry that my commitments were getting in the way of my writing goals. But the very hours I thought I was sacrificing, taking away from writing time to spend all evening at practice or all weekend at a tournament, turned out to be a great investment not only in people, but in my writing. The more I take time away from writing to just live, the more my writing comes alive.

17 comments:

  1. I have to accept that writing isn't my whole life too. I have to work full-time and I have a family. But like you, that's okay with me. It helps my writing and who knows what will ever come of my writing. It's important to keep it all in perspective.

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  2. I have a life, and writing is one aspect. But I respect that to get published, I must devote time in honing my skill, finding an agent or publisher, then marketing.

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  3. Nice perspective. And true. Writing is a PART of my life, an important cherished part, but never the whole basket. :-)

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  4. This is a great post. Writing, like our other pursuits, is a choice. We choose to sit down and do it or we choose to go out and fill ourselves with the experiences it takes to be better at it. And just because we aren't writing 24/7, doesn't mean we're not writers. I know that when I'm not drawing, that doesn't make me less of an illustrator. I choose when I sit down and draw. I certainly feel it if I haven't drawn in awhile. I miss it like a vital human need, but I simply can't do it all of the time.

    What I love most is that no pursuit of ours is completely independent of the others. While we're participating in one, we might be thinking about another. While I'm writing, I might feel the need to draw a character so I can better describe him in words. It's all connected.

    Yes, we love what we do, but we owe it to ourselves and our writing to make ourselves the kind of people who can create interesting things. The more we take in, the more we can give out in the form of stories, images. I'd rather read something from the mind of an interesting person who's had a lot of life experiences, than from someone who imagines life from a desk chair.

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  5. Natalie and Christina, yes, it's all about perspective and balance.

    Em, you're right. But while some struggle more with making the time, others find that they can become too absorbed in writing and publication—people like me, who tend to take sayings like, "A writer writes, always" too literally. :)

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  6. So well said, RR! I discovered this the hard way. It literally took a head-on collision to get me to re-prioritize and put my family first. Granted, I was on my way to a craft trip with my kids, so I wasn't exactly neglecting them. But my life was off balance toward writing. This happens every once in a while still. I've even felt it happening lately, so I so appreciate this reminder. I agree 100% with what you said about how living life enriches our writing. When I'm writing about my real life experiences, I get the best feedback I've ever received about my writing. Experience matters.

    Lesson: If I keep my life in balance I not only have a happier me, a happier family, and happier friends. I also have more experience to draw from in my writing.

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    1. Right on, Katrina! I'm reminding myself, too. With the launch of Wonder Light coming up, things could get crazy!

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  7. Interesting. I feel like I came from the opposite spectrum. When I was a YA and NA...all the way up to 30. Writing wasn't my life. I did everything else under the sun (literally!).

    And now, as I'm pushing toward the big 4-0, I find that writing is becoming my life. I've dropped everything else in order to write more because well...I've already done a lot.

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    1. It took me a while, Wesley, but I've learned how to do a lot AND write a lot. :)

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  8. If you ask my husband, he'd definitely say writing takes up big chunks of my life! And yet, I still manage to get homecooked meals on the table most nights, we have clean clothes, the cats aren't starving . . . so life goes on, even when I'm in obsessive writer mode. Even if he gets neglected some evenings.

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  9. I had an awakening moment when I was beginning to sound like a broken record, even to myself. "I'm almost done!" "Five more minutes!" "One page!" "Right after this chapter!"

    Honestly, I'll never be done. There will always be more stories to write, more editing, more querying... so I've learned to pace myself accordingly, so I can enjoy life with my kids before they grow up and move away. Time flies so fast!

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  10. Cheers!! Life does go fast but isn't it amazing all that we've learned when it comes to what it takes to "be" a writer? It can't be your end-all. Life has to be enjoyed, experienced, LIVED to be written about. I LOVE to write but I also LOVE my family and friends and they truly are what makes me able to focus on this career.

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  11. Brilliant post. I've often felt the same way, that if I could just focus on the writing then I would be so much farther along with it. If I could just give up some of my other creative interests and learn to be the elbow-patch wearing writer type who made the writing The Most Important Thing in Her Life than I would be a Real Writer and succeed.

    So, I love this post. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I'm so glad you guys enjoyed it. I hope it spares someone the angst of thinking writing has to be their everything in order for them to go anywhere writing-wise.

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  13. Perfect. I have been stepping up on this soap box lately too and even left a few comments about this on a few blogs today then lo n' behold, Kimberly Gabriel made a reference to your article in her blog today, and I knew I had to come over and be a part of your Amen Choir. Maybe it's a benefit of being older and having a chunk of life to look back on, but I realize there are so many lovely and fun facets to our life, writing included but not exclusive. I love to be outside, workout, read, bake (it counteracts the working out thing). I AM a mother, wife, friend, spiritual being, and yes, writer. Maybe I need to start a new blog-- it's not all about writing. ;)

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