This blog was featured on 07/28/2016
[THE WRITER'S LIFE] Write Like It's A Real Job

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic, and I suspect it won’t be the last. Just today I had to fend off an invitation from a neighbor to go have coffee. I like my neighbor; she has been a friend for a long time. She runs a dance studio, so recently her days and weekends have been jammed with Nutcracker rehearsals and performances, so when she called, she just wanted to catch up after finally coming up for air. I like her, I like coffee and I like catching up, but I said, “No, I can’t. I have to work.”

Since she’s my neighbor, she could probably see that I didn’t jump in my car and leave my home to go to my office (read: real job). And I felt slightly guilty that I didn’t leave and prove I was working, so I stayed away from the windows just in case she was watching. The work I had to do, of course, was writing. Besides these very words you are now reading, I have several works-in-progress to put some time and effort into. Major time and effort. Because now I’ve taken on two other projects in addition to the two manuscripts that are already suffering from neglect. Who in their right mind would even consider more work when their plate is already full . . . and often abandoned? What’s wrong with me?

Well, nothing actually, I love to write. That’s what is “wrong” with me. The two additional projects have to do with writing: I am adapting my first book into a play and I am developing the outline for a book I plan to write during my trip to Italy next summer. I love to write even while I have to go to a day job to pay the mortgage (and a trip to Italy). Now that I have published my first book, I really love to write. The need is even stronger than before. I process everything I see or experience as an essay in my mind. Phrases turn themselves over in my head and letters on the page look like if I picked them all up, they would feel smooth and perfect, like digging my hands into a bucket of tiny shells or polished pebbles. And now that my grandson is learning how to spell his name, I experience anew the excitement of putting letters together to convey thoughts, ideas and identities. Luca puts his letters anywhere he wants on the page, (unless I draw a line for him), sometimes right side up or upside down. It’s awesome.

It has taken me a long time to be able to say “No” to a favor, invitation or request if I’m not really doing anything but writing. I don’t believe it is simply a matter of believing in myself or making my work important; although there are elements of those charges involved. I wonder if male writers have this same trouble, because I tend to think that it is mostly a female thing; especially if one is a mother and is used to dropping everything in order to care for someone else’s needs.

There are probably more academic inquiries into this phenomenon than I care to make right now. For now, I am going to leave you with a little inspiration, hopefully, so that you can guard a little bit of your time for your own writing. I’ve borrowed from Satchel Paige and I don’t think I’m the first to do so.  Here you go...happy writing.

Write like you don't need the money.

Write like you've never been rejected.

Write like nobody's judging.

(Adapted from: “Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching.”   ~ Satchel Paige)

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  • Michelle Cox

    This resonated with me completely, Cindy!  In order to "be a real writer," I had to quit all of my volunteer positions at church and my kids' school, which was nearly tantamount to chopping off a limb for me.  Likewise for the next year I had to sit on my hands to prevent raising them to bake a batch of cookies for the bake sale (we need just a few more dozen!) or helping at the food pantry (we're short on volunteers this month!) or whatever the latest request was.  Now that I'm in full promotion mode with my first novel, I've even had to cancel all coffees and lunches to deal with the desperate frenzy I now find myself in.  Some "friends" are definitely more accepting than others, to say the least, as it's very hard to explain just what it is I'm doing all day.  Thank you for your post!  It makes me feel less crazy.

  • Thank you all for your comments and thoughts. Irene, I'll let you know how the adaptation's giving me a challenge, that's for sure!

  • Irene Allison

    Cindy, this is a terrific post about the dilemma woman experience because of things that pull us away from our writing and our creative selves. So tricky and so true. Thank you for your wisdom.

    And congratulations on adapting your book as a play, sounds wonderfully creative!

  • Print, read, repeat.

  • Patricia Robertson

    Been struggling with this as well. I keep reminding myself that writing is my job and needs to be treated like a job rather than something I do in my spare time (which is what I did for years while working a "real" job). I do think it is harder for women because we are so used to taking care of others, putting their needs before our own.

  • Thank you Cindy! I love the turn on Paige's words "Write like you don't need the money. Write like you've never been rejected. Write like Nobody's judging." Perfect for me today. 

  • Trudy Swenson

    Guarding and valuing your writing time--such a hard thing to do as our busy lives swirl around us.