Tuesday, September 24, 2013
I Have a Life (Podcast #4)
OR - http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/111506945
When writers complain about not having the time to promote, network, or write for several days in a row, the most common reason I hear is this:
I have a life.
I heard it again this week, from a writer I know. He was preparing a query letter for agents, and the last competition he'd placed in was in 2000. I told him to name the contest, but leave off the year, explaining that an agent might ask what the heck he'd been doing since then and now, and why it took him so long to start querying. He literally said, "I've been living my life."
That bothers me. It's as if writing, promoting, querying and networking are not a part of our lives.
We all have friends and/or family that consume much of our days. Many of us have jobs that suck up hours of our waking moments. We come home tired or we prefer the social exchange with our loved ones. Everybody gets that. That's a big fat DUH. All writers have that problem. . . that problem of finding the balance.
We are all living our lives, whether we write or not.
Your writing success, like any other success in your life, depends upon how much of your day you are willing to invest into it. That's not a good or bad thing. That's just pure, unadulterated fact. To be good at parenting, cooking, skydiving, weight-lifting or tennis you must put in the time. To be great you have to contribute a higher percentage of that time, in strategic directions.
We know you have a life. All of us have lives. You aren't better than me, or the writer down the street, or the author you admire online, or the freelancer on Facebook. Every single one of them has a life, too.
I often remind myself that Stephen King has a bad day. So do Nicholas Sparks, Grisham, Hocking, Rowling, Kingsolver and so on. They get colds. They have marital clashes. They get mad at their families. They want to chuck it all and do something else. They wish they didn't have to promote.
They clean up the dog's pee on the carpet. They still have to meet their tax deadline on April 15. They eat something that sends them to a toilet all night. They get hate mail. They realize their favorite jeans fit too tight or their best yellow shirt was washed with something red.
They are living their lives. We just don't see the minutiae.
I'm often asked how I find the time to write, promote and travel. I never know how to answer. My days have 24 hours in them like anyone else's. My clock commences when I rise and stops when I shut my eyes at night. What's accomplished in between depends on what drives me, and what I choose to do...and choose NOT to do. Sometimes my choices work and sometimes they don't.
There's nothing wrong with admitting:
1) Being a huge writing success isn't a driving factor for you.
2) You don't care to promote and you accept the fact you'll sell less.
3) You prefer doing other things in lieu of writing and promoting.
4) The fear of promotion ruins the joy of writing.
I ate lunch with an intriguing attendee at the West Virginia Writer's Conference this year. She ran marathons. She was in her late-sixties. Her legs looked better than mine and she wore shorts without blushing. She oozed health. I told her how impressed I was with her achievements in that arena, and I was downright jealous. I build up to running one to three miles then get sidetracked, having to start over. Being on the road a lot this year, I was in one of those running slumps at the time, so my envy was running deep.
She said that it's all in just wanting to do it. She didn't run her first marathon until she was fifty. Friggin' wow. I was stunned, and promptly picked my jaw up off the floor to ask how she achieved that level of running.
She calmly replied: "When I come home from work, I can write, take a nap, or go for a run. I usually go for a run. It's really that simple."
Amazed, I thought about that a second. Then I said: "I would choose to write."
With an all-knowing grin, she said: "If I wrote like you, I'd choose writing, too."
And at that moment I realized writing was my marathon running.
What defines your life? Your days? What is your achievement? Whether it's running or writing or some other feat, own it. Don't make excuses for what you choose not to do. Enjoy to the fullest those things you choose to do.
So the next time you think about saying, "But I have a life," try to realize that you are only making an excuse . . . because everybody has a life. It just may not be like yours.