Friday, October 9, 2015

Saying No to Everything Else--How Much Can You Realistically Give to Your Book?


When we happily begin our books, we really don't know what kind of time they will take. Such naivete is a good plan, in a way. Ignorance of what we've signed up for keeps us enthusiastic for quite a while. We write, accumulate pages, stay high on the process.

Until we compare notes with another writer.

"I write every day," our new writing friend says. "My instructor/mentor/favorite famous writer days you have to, if you want to really finish your book."

We slink back to our writing desk, wondering what to do now. It doesn't help that our new friend (pick one): (a) is single, no kids; (b) doesn't have to work; (c) is retired and looking for stuff to do; or (d) works at home and can write anytime.


If we're meant to write every day . . . Really?!! . . . when will it happen. We puzzle over this, because the book is still a fervent energy inside. Maybe getting up an hour earlier? We scan the internet, trying to figure out how much of our friend's plan is true--and how others do it, when they work full time, have two toddlers or two teenagers (about the same amount of work), and a to-do list longer than both arms. We thought we were doing great with two hours on Saturday afternoon.

This is all-or-nothing thinking. I don't believe you have to sacrifice your life to write your book. At least five of my published books were written between full-time job, house and family, even a teenager's demands.

But there is a pervasive belief out there that you must put aside everything else to actually do it.

This week, I got a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Derek Sivers, the inventive guy who started CDBaby. Sivers wrote about his failed attempt at many projects in his life, including writing. From all these failed attempts, he learned something: you have to say no to everything else in your life to get something big accomplished.

Some of you will be agreeing. Anytime you plan a new venture, you do best if you clear the decks of anything else. But not everyone has to take this approach. Remember the saying, "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it?" Lucille Ball said that. It's been true for me.

How do you manage a book and a life? In small bites. The writer who began this story has gone back to two hours on Saturday afternoon, and she is finishing her book quite nicely, thank you. She finds it a relief to have a creative project to go to after her work week and family chaos. She is in one of my online classes and uses the weekly deadlines to keep her writing--but she writes! She's moving past the beginner stage and is well on her way to a first draft.

I guess it depends on what kind of person you are.

Your Weekly Writing Exercise
Take a look at how you are approaching your writing. Do you tend towards all or nothing? If you can't write every day, you better give up now?

Take fifteen minutes and dialogue on paper with your book. Ask it what it wants, and how might it best fit into your life.