“How do you do it all?” I can’t even begin to tell you how many times friends, family members, and colleagues have asked me that question. And there really isn’t a definitive answer other than blood, sweat, and tears. Well, maybe not the blood part, except for that time I had a paper cut. But then again, if bleeding ink counts, then blood does apply.
Real writers work ridiculously hard. I never realized how hard until I became a part of the author melting pot. Sweating over deadlines, crying because your editor wants to cut a scene you spent months perfecting, tearing your hair out over marketing, and coming to the realization that following your dream of becoming an author has sucked every ounce of energy from you. The entire writing, rewriting, editing, revising, polishing, publishing process is a walk in the park, except you’re not walking, you’re running with rabid dogs chasing you and the park in on fire. Ok…it’s not that bad. I’d describe it more like a marathon where you’re pouring out all of your energy and sweating like crazy hoping to reach the finish line without collapsing.
The market for books and e-books is huge. Authors of every age, with varying levels of experience ranging from big names with large-scale international profiles to indie authors no one has ever heard of, write and publish books from every genre imaginable, and all seek the same thing–to gain readers, which will hopefully lead to book sales. Authors participate in book signings and readings, keep up on social media, and some even conduct interviews or offer writing workshops to teach others how to write. The list goes on. All of this is challenging, but when you consider the fact that many of these authors are married, raising children, paying mortgages and car payments, and some of them even go to school or carry full time jobs when they aren’t writing (myself included), the entire writing process seems daunting.
So how does a writer with a normal life do all of this? Caffeine is certainly helpful, although I don’t recommend drinking 50 cups of coffee a day. In fact, I don’t even like coffee. Tea works nicely though.
Being a writer, carrying a full time job, and raising a family definitely falls into the balancing act realm. My first priority is my family. My children are older now and don’t require my attention 24/7, but I still make sure they have what they need and make it a point to spend some quality time with them. My husband and I need time to connect as well, so we make time every night to talk. Weekends, for the most part, are family time. Housework, yard work, and taking care of our pets is a group effort. We all work together, taking ownership of the tasks at hand, so we are able to complete chores fairly quickly. This way all of us have time to pursue whatever our passions and interests are. Less sweat, less tears, and hopefully no blood.
My job occupies my day, five days a week. I’m technically on the clock from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., although I don’t recall in the 20 some years I’ve been in this profession a time when I’ve actually left work at 3:30. I’m usually in the building until at least 5:00 p.m., often later in order to avoid rush hour traffic. My profession is one that requires me to work with children all day, which, as those of you who are around children know, can be physically draining. Endless paperwork, countless meetings…I won’t get into all the details. The point is I probably work anywhere between 50 and 70 hours a week. But I’ve made it a point over the last few years to leave my work at work and not bring any of it home. If that means I stay a little later that day, then that’s what I do. Less sweat, less tears. I have, however, seen blood in my profession, including my own.
My evenings, after dinner with the family, are dedicated to writing. Whether it’s reading a good book by a great author, editing and revising a book I’ve written, working on a first draft of another book, or networking, etc… I’m writing. I keep a notebook and a pen in my possession at all times in case an inspiration pops into my head (which happens more often than you think it does.) I use this time to relax and unwind from my busy day. That’s what writing does for me. It’s my stress relief. No sweat. No tears, unless I’m reading or writing an emotional scene, and definitely no blood. Although I have written scenes that have blood in them.
It all sounds chaotic and overwhelming, but would I have it any other way? Not on your life. Balance. Balance leads to harmony. Harmony lessens stress. Less stress means less sweat, fewer tears, and only occasional blood loss. So pursue your dream, and most importantly, take some time for yourself. Live. Laugh. Love. Read. Write.
L.M. Nelson, Author of Scrubs