Hey, Life – I Wrote Tonight. (And You Couldn’t Stop Me)

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.

Rules:

  • 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.

Mindset Redefinition:

  • 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.

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21 comments on “Hey, Life – I Wrote Tonight. (And You Couldn’t Stop Me)

  1. Ollin says:

    This is inspiring Janna! If you could do it as a mother {one of the hardest jobs in the world}, then I got nothing to complain about. I hope other mothers out there who have dreams of becoming a writer and feel like they can’t make time for writing find inspiration in your post, as well. Thank you for your wonderful words.

  2. T.S. Bazelli says:

    Those are great tips Janna! For me, I find that my worst enemy is the internet. I don’t have a lot of spare time, and I’ve found I waste a lot just checking my email. Now I unplug the network cable when I need to write. So far, it’s been good.🙂 Crossing my fingers though, since it’s only been 2 days haha.

    • jannatwrites says:

      I so agree with you – the internet can suck hours away without me realizing it. Then I’m racked with guilt that’s just as bad as eating a pint of Haagen Dazs ice cream in one sitting…not that I’ve ever done that before….um, never mind.

      I’m glad the internet ban is helping with your writing. Be strong and don’t let it back into your writing time🙂

  3. Kiara says:

    Great tips and ideas, Janna!

    It’s work that gets in the way of my writing. I’m always so busy, there seems to be a million and one things that get in the way of what I actually want to do – write, read and edit. The only advantage I have is my constant motivation. If I want to write and edit, I WILL find the time to do so. In fact, I make time. It’s the only thing I can do if I want to get it done.

    You can’t create excuses or try and find a way out of it as there will always be another barrier in between you and writing. The only thing you can do is try to get past it, and not beat yourself up so much if some writing has to fall through the cracks for something more important. I don’t make a set schedule for writing because there’s no set schedule for life. I work around my day, and don’t restrict myself. Again, it’s all about sacrifice and focus, as well as not feeling too guilty about giving in to basic needs and important tasks.

    I’ll get there in the end – it’s the fact that I’ll get there at all which is important.

    • jannatwrites says:

      You’re determined, Kiara! I’m glad you don’t let your job be the barrier between you and writing – it would be so easy to do that. (I’m fortunate to have a job that doesn’t require very much after-hours work.) With your work ethic, I have no doubt you will get there….and it’s not a race, so it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Keep it up🙂

  4. Thank you for this Janna!I especially love your new definition of success. More often than not, it is fear of failure that holds us back. I think that re-defining success is key.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • jannatwrites says:

      I’m glad you liked the definition – it’s been passed on by my wise blogger friends (they know what they’re talking about!)

      That one is still a work-in-progress for me, since I can’t undo a life-long way of thinking overnight🙂

  5. Loved it–this post is as inspirational and informative as ever.

    It’s awe-inspiring that you have maintained your writing along with a full time job, kids, hubby and your furry ones! My my. I applaud that determination of yours, J.

    Much love,
    BroownEyed

    • jannatwrites says:

      You’re always too kind, BrownEyed🙂 Some days are better than others for writing, but some writing is better than none at all. I do feel better since I ditched the word/page count goals😉

  6. jannatwrites says:

    Thanks, Nancy! You’re very right – giving up is failure (by default). Writers can’t be quitters, can they?

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Positive Parenting, Ollin Morales. Ollin Morales said: "Hey, Life – I Wrote Tonight. (And You Couldn’t Stop Me)" by Guest Blogger JannaTWrites: http://wp.me/pPq2W-NZ […]

  8. Lua says:

    This was such an uplifting, inspirational post Jenna! I believe if we show up, do our best and try again and again- there is no way we won’t make it to the finishing line!🙂

  9. First, Oh my goodness, is that Lua???

    Second — wonderful post, Janna. I feel your pain with fitting writing in. You’re smart to set time guidelines even if they don’t always work. I adjust my schedule day by day — not the best way to do it, but if I can “only” write from 7-9am and it doesn’t happen that day, I still like to fit in a few minutes somewhere else.

    Good luck to you~

    • Lua says:

      Hey Amanda!🙂
      I did quit blogging but I’m still around to keep track of my blogger friends and still writing my weekly story @ Serial Central (Ollin calls me Ninja Writer)😉

      • Hi Lua!

        I knew you had stopped blogging (I miss your posts), but the last time I was at Serial Central, you hadn’t been around. I’ll have to check back.

        Best of luck at school~

        Okay, sorry for hijacking this comment thread, Ollin and Janna T. Peace out.

    • jannatwrites says:

      I know you’re a mom, too, so you have to work with what you’ve got. I think a day-by-day schedule is a good thing to go for…and if it’s working, I wouldn’t change a thing! I wish you the best on your journey🙂

  10. Addy says:

    Excellent post Jannat!!! I say that “it’s all within you”! If you want to write, push yourself but just enough to do it and not fall flat on you face!!! And eventually repent later!!!

    Best wishes,
    Addy

    • jannatwrites says:

      Thanks, Addy! I do push myself, and I can’t guarantee I won’t land on my face…but if I do, I’ll certainly get up, dust myself off and get going again.

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