Editor’s note: this is a guest post by JannaTWrites.
I’m a wife. I’m a mom to two young boys. I’m a full-time employee. I’m caretaker of five furry friends (2 dogs and 3 cats.) My short-term goal is live life each day/week/year–not just survive it. My long-term goal is to become a published author. My dream is to earn a living with my writing. I know publishing is a tough business and I may never get there; but having a dream gives me hope, and hope gives me purpose.
Until about three years ago, my writing dream stayed repressed while I followed a ‘realistic’ career path. (I learned all about repression while going to college for my Bachelor of Science in Psychology). I ended up not pursuing a career in psychology, but for my alternate career path, I took classes, earned designations and observed others to improve my skills through learning.
Over a two-year period, I wrote my first novel at night after everyone else went to bed. Earlier this year, I realized what my writing career goal lacked: education. I browsed through the community college course catalog and experienced love-at-first sight when I read the course description for a Basic Manuscript Writing: Fiction class:
Basic Manuscript Writing: Fiction – Basic skills and techniques used by the professional fiction writer in writing fiction for publication, including characterization, plot development, writing dialogue, setting scenes, and establishing mood. Emphasis on writing scenes.
Isn’t it dreamy? I felt we were destined to meet, but I knew time and my schedule threatened to keep us apart.
With every dream comes sacrifice, right? Two-and-a-half hours one night a week for sixteen weeks was a lot to give up; there would still be reading with the kids, helping with homework, fixing dinner–well you get the picture. But I knew I had to do it.
The gained knowledge made me feel empowered, not burdened. I can’t control how my writing is received by agents when I query. Even if an agent loves my work, I can’t control whether or not a publisher will agree. I can’t control how my writing is received by readers. But I can control how I create my stories, and my manuscript writing class gave me some rules and guidelines to follow–or break, when necessary. The added bonus is that knowledge breeds confidence.
To keep my writing goals on track while taking this class, I set a few rules for myself. Since I have a habit of creating stress with unrealistic or unhealthy expectations, I’ve also been working on redefining my mindset.
- Allot a certain amount of time for reading/writing blogs each day. If left unchecked, I can spend my entire writing time reading blogs.
- Write in notebooks when a computer isn’t available. When I type my handwritten notes into the computer, I get a chance to polish a little as I type. I also keep spiral pocket notebook in my purse to jot down ideas.
- Commit a set amount of time each day to write. I use time, rather than word or page count because any writing is a success.
- Sacrifices are necessary. Contrary to the pervasive myth in modern society, we can’t have (or do) it all. I tried. I failed. Miserably. Figure out what can slide. For me, I eliminated most television. (I was ready to ditch cable, but hubby said “not so fast!”.) I also spend less time on house cleaning and devised games for the kids to trick encourage them to clean.
- Cut some slack when life happens: I’ve struggled with this because I want to write every day, but sometimes I can’t (or I need a break). Family obligations are going to happen, kid’s activities will creep up, and maybe, just maybe, I might want to read a book.
- Focus, not obsess. (Focus = healthy; Obsession = scary.) I know I’ve crossed the fine line between focus and obsession when: I can’t remember the last time I stood up; my eyes see double and I’m nodding off at my keyboard; I realize I will only get five hours of sleep but keep typing anyway.
- Redefine “Success”. My terrific blog/writer friends have written about the negative emotional impact of defining success by publication. I had always thought I’d be successful when I had something published (which meant if I didn’t ever have anything published, I’d be a failure). My revised definition of success is writing a story I can be proud of, regardless of what anyone else has to say about it. Now there’s a goal worth achieving.
I’m not the only one with a jam-packed life–how do you fit writing in? Or, if you don’t, why not–what’s holding you back?
JannaTWrites enjoys writing novels, short stories and poetry. By day, she works in the insurance industry; at night, she writes when she can. Twenty-four hours a day, she’s a wife and mom who dreams of one day becoming a published author. Check out her blog here for her take on life, writing, and everything in between.
To follow the Courage 2 Create and find out what happens to Ollin and his novel, you can subscribe by inserting your e-mail into the subscription box in the top right corner of the sidebar! Subscription is completely free! Thank you for subscribing!