Let me first state that I have had aspirations of becoming a writer since I was about thirteen - I am currently 43. During those thirty years, I lost my way more than once, but I suppose it started in my junior year of college when I dropped out of my creative writing major (which I was close to finishing) and changed to sociology. It was all over a ridiculous argument with my advising professor - I chalk it up to the stubborness of age and the impertinence of youth.
I joined Hatrack back in 2008 with hopes of finally becoming serious about writing once again. However, I no longer had the luxury of sailing wherever the wind took me - I now had a wife, a child, a mortgage, a car payment, and numerous other financial responsibilities. Over the last three years my paying career has taken off, collapsed, and slowly risen again. Unfortunately, this has also been a great source of frustration for me due to the excessive amount of paperwork (5-10 hrs per weekend) and the daily emotional strain inherent in what I do (working with children with emotional disabilities in schools).
This takes a toll on me, my family, and my writing. I am thinking of, at least temporarily, sacrificing my career (and level of pay) for something that would allow me to go home each weekday and weekend without having futher responsibilities. My wife is good with this, because she hates seeing me miserable. It would be tight, but we could afford it. And I would relish the opportunity to finally have time to write without taking away from real responsibilities (as I am doing at this very moment).
The only things stopping me from doing this are: firstly, my pride (My income was reduced by 20K in the last year and my wife makes considerably more than I do already), and secondly, I do care about the children with whom I work (they already have too much turmoil and instability without me up and leaving).
I apologize for the length of this. I don't necessarily want advice about what to do, but maybe it would help me to see a discussion about frustrations and considerations of reasonable (and unreasonable) sacrifice. I am confident I can do this writing thing, but in all honesty, I have thought about giving up many times over the last several months.
So I will just say that I see your frustration and that I would probably feel the same. I have had to make some sacrifices for writing but they have all been small compared to what you talk about. But at the same time it's not really much of a sacrifice since I get more out of writing than the other activities. So as you seem to be doing go with your heart. Oops, that was advice.
And I add that as you probably know, you aren't the first person to make big sacrifices for what they really wanted to do and many of them succeeded, so it can be done even if it involves hard work, less pay and some emotional turmoil. But you already have the last.
Thank you for your kind words, LDW. I don't have a problem with advice, if that is what you will afford me. I said, "I don't necessarily want advice." I suppose I know what I need to do (for many reasons). However, the follow-through is going to be immensely difficult for me. I know others have had to sacrifice greatly, and it would be helpful to hear something inspiring.
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Frustrated at the lack of time I seem to have and I keep thinking that if I could treat writing as a fulltime job or even a parttime job then I would be so much better. The sacrifice I would have to make though would be putting my kids (2 and 7months) in daycare - which I have done in the past for my "real" career, so have no problems with daycare as such. But I just don't feel I can justify it, I'm not good enough yet.
I just need to find more motivation to write when my boys are asleep.
But I'm so very tired.
[This message has been edited by Delli (edited September 19, 2011).]
I was in my middle thirties when chronic health condition onsets began. I didn't know, nor want to know, nor come to know for another decade. I dropped out of the mainstream rat race back then from loss of drive, in large part because physiological afflictions sapped my will.
I was in my middle forties when I recognized my writing was going nowhere, after a lifetime pursuit. It was stuck in a black hole of repetitious recited synopsis, summary, explanation, dry expository detail: Tell. I couldn't even tell a joke halfway entertainingly that got laughs when anyone else told the same joke to the same audience immediately following.
I got serious about creative writing about then. It's been ten more years.
Many people along the way have said I oughta do something else. As polite as possible a way of saying my writing wasn't worth reading. I did but didn't abandon my writing dream. Those something elses I did are still art. I discovered from them why my writing was lackluster and why I'm compelled to write. My writing lacked for emotional appeal. And because I had no personal contact with an audience of any kind.
Those other arts, they require personal contact to be anything but self-serving pursuits; in other words, they are conversation pieces that require a dialogue to be meaningful.
What I learned from my other arts: Create something no one else will or can. Do it well. Emotionally appeal to the subconscious or at least unrealized desires of a target audience. Create art that does what art is meant to do: surprisingly stimulate emotions that titilate, excite, comfort, empathize, whatever, that an audience craves because, like me, they're undead sleepwalking through a dreary routine alpha reality existence.
I'd self-medicated my emotions into silence all along. My affect in person was as flat as my writing. Since self-realization of my flat affect and the causes both physiological and emotional thereof, duh-huh epiphanies have come fast and furious. Personal and writing growth from getting serious about writing. Well, don't that beat all.
I can't do much for my flat personal affect but cope and carry on as best I'm able. Maybe that's a therapy, perhaps a cure, certainly cathartic. Through my writing I can live an emotionally meaningful life, and as it's always been, live one or many through reading.
That's one reason I've discovered I'm compelled to write. The central one, though, is, like my target audience, I want for the satisfaction of approval, of applause, of fulfilling desires, of feeling alive and an emotionally meaningful part of humanity.
I read a seven-hundred word short piece aloud to a discerning audience a week ago. It was unanimously and warmly well-received. The voice of it is alive, passionate, and stimulating, bright, lively, and delightedly surprised. It's been ten years since I got serious.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited September 19, 2011).]
I applaud you, sir. You continue to pursue that which you know makes you happy. Apathy comes from letting go the fleeting dream. Only a true dreamer carries it over into real life, shines a light on it and says, "This is how I want to live."
If you can make it work with the support of your family, that is great! I've never had the cahones to try. This is not merely because I'm the family "breadwinner" and because of expenses [mortgage, household, and especially college (child is in year 5 at present--and I anticipate will need a helping hand to get started after graduation)], but I simply don't believe I am good enough. It's a Catch-22. If I had more time to write, perhaps I'd become a better writer; but I don't wish to spend my time writing unless I can prove I can write well enough to be published. Your wife sounds like a wonderful person to support you in pursuing your dream.
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In medical school, we are rather pressed for time. And even when I'm not, I feel that I shouldn't be writing because that is a distraction from my studying, which I "know" is more important. Add on the fact that I'd really rather spend my free time with my wife and kidlets rather than cloister myself in the office and write... I end up constantly putting my writing at a position on my priority list that is not near the top.
Unlike you, I don't have the option of simply changing my schedule. I see your decision point as deciding if the difference in income and value you place on your position would be worth the trade for more time writing. Since I can't make that choice right now, I am using what time I do have to work on the outline for my story. I am definitely an outline writer, and once I have my plot fully fleshed out, I can easily write. So I simply consider different parts of my story at different times, and I have been slowly filling out my plot. This is something I can do while commuting, walking around campus, etc. I've been able to almost complete it (save for a few nagging details I don't like yet...)
My plan is that when I finish it, since writing from a planned vantage point is really easy for me, to simply write 15 minutes or so a day as a means of taking a break from my real responsibilities.
We'll see if it works, but I wanted to share that with you to show that maybe this choice of cutting back work to write more may not be your only option right now. Depending on how supportive your wife and family are, maybe they'd even let you cloister yourself away at home a few minutes per day.
I can sympathize...by and large, I made decisions to secure my financial base, to a certain extent to secure the freedom to write...but the quantity of my writing has gone down considerably while the quality has gone up only a little.
Also the "secure my financial base" led to other problems, from not wanting to abandon a job I'm not thrilled with before my pension kicks in, through assorted debt and financial crises.
(There's also a feeling I've gotten, that my stuff is "good enough" right now, but I'm just not connecting with the markets I'm sending my stuff to, that the problem might be on their end rather than mine...and I don't even know how much longer those markets will be around...)
Right now my financial crises are behind me, I hope...and, perhaps unfortunately, retirement may be coming sooner than I thought it would---and it'll be thinner than I hoped. I still plan to "chase the dream," at least at the level I've been working at all along...
It's sort of hard to write when your spouse and kids (grown) groan when you bring up stories you've written. I've been at it actively for a bit over two years. In that time I've had my job crater, found another for half of my previous pay. I've had cancer and had it come back (hopefully now cured forever).
Yet, I've come back from all that and can say that my writing is definitely improving. I am getting a better sense when I write of what is working and what isn't and recognizing more errors as I write. I've got a long way to go.
After sending out queries for my third novel and not getting a positive response, I was discouraged. Why write when it takes two to three years to get published. What's pumped me up is the advent of self-publishing. I'll have an anthology up by the end of this month. Getting my work out there is quite a salve to the frustration and sacrifice bit. That is, if I can get a few hundred folks to buy the thing.
Just to clarify, my wife isn't supporting this because of my writing. She is tired of my spending the entire weekend doing paperwork. There are also some internal policy changes within my company that are becoming morally challenging for me - they have put most of the employees in a conundrum, in which we are being forced to lie about where we do our paperwork. I doubt we are breaking any laws (at least not yet), but I am uncomfortable with the situation all the same.
I have also had my share of health problems, and according to what my doctor told me at the time, I almost died about ten years ago. I hadn't been feeling well for a while, so I drove to my general physician's office. They did a blood test and found that I had a 3.7 RBC count. My doctor seemed surprised that I could walk around and converse with people with that low of a count. I imagine I was about as close as it comes to being a zombie - or maybe a vampire.
Anyway, the cause of this affliction is somewhat personal and I don't want to get into it here, but it still plagues me, and no one has come up with a fix that isn't likely to make situation worse. They tell me to take lots of iron.
My thinking with regards to a potential job change is to find a night position at a children's home. Ironically, that was what I was doing when I first joined Hatrack. The paperwork is considerably low in comparison, and there's nothing to bring home. On the other hand, you typically have eight hours of silence to do with whatever you wish.
On the downside, the last time I did this kind of work, about eight teenagers rioted and threw chairs through the office door and threatened to attack me.
philocinemas, a friend who also needs to "take lots of iron" told me that breakfast cereals are a really good source because they are iron-fortified (and they're easier on the stomach and more iron gets into your system than some iron supplements).
Thank you, Philocinemas, for bringing this up. I’ve been feeling similarly stressed about priorities and balance in my life. Sounds like a lot of us are.
I know so many other people can express this much more elegantly, but I think you are so fortunate in so many ways. You actually have the means to rearrange your life a bit if you want to. You have a wife who wants the whole you to be healthy and satisfied. And you have faith in yourself and your abilities. It seems that even though this is hard and stressful, the possibilities are wide open for you. I hope the right things come your way for you and your family. Good luck to you in all your decisions.
[This message has been edited by RoxyL (edited September 20, 2011).]
quote: Thank you for your kind words, LDW. I don't have a problem with advice, if that is what you will afford me. I said, "I don't necessarily want advice."
Well, I took that to mean you knew what to do already. But with your health problems and job related moral problems it might be a good idea to do something different since it sounds like you can afford it.
And those were kinda old children. But check around there might be other things you can do.
Sorry to hear about your frustrations. Typically I would be writing at this time, but I am too annoyed with work to write (something I have been emotionally bring home lately to no advantage). It was ironic, and almost therapeutic to read through these posts.
All I have is sympathy and no advice. Having a supportive wife is wonderful. I am the sole breadwinner in my house, so yes my wife is supportive to the extent that I continue to provide for her and our little guys. I daydream daily about a career change, but I think that will have to be something in a more distant future for now.
I hear you, philo! If it helps, there are a few bits of wisdom I've picked up along the way.
The first, and most important (to me) is this: People before things. So if you can find a way to satisfy the people in your life (hint: YOU are one of those people...) that might deliver fewer material possessions (without creating new/unwanted stress over paying required bills) -- it may be worth it.
But next, it has helped me to look at seasons of my life/year. I'm just not one of those writers who writes every day (though of course I write something every day because I'm a computer person and use email as my primary means of communicating, but not necessarily a new-fiction-every-day kind of person.) I've had some great successes when I've written every day, and enjoyed those stretches, but it's helped me to see that I'm a burst writer who writes a LOT some of the time rather than a little ALL of the time.
Plus, there are seasons to my life and right now I'm in one that seems to be tricky to fit in any writing (I think that if I picked a new project and started writing something new this might change, but since my main writing to-do is to edit a novel, I'm stuck in a loop. Must edit novel, don't want to edit novel, can't do anything new til I at least make some sort of attempt in the edit novel direction...I'm just a horrible procrastinator when it comes down to it)
But I have to be gentle with myself and realize that sometimes I just need things to evolve to where it's easier/more possible/more urgent/more interesting to me to do a specific thing, then I have less trouble making time for it. I'm on the cusp, I hope to get over the hump soon here, we'll see.
At any rate, your challenges are not unique, but they are real and true and hard and it's never quite apparent what the right answer is. Although sometimes it is. From the way you describe your work situation, perhaps you're just looking for a reason to go in a different career direction at this point? Maybe your current job is giving it to you?
Good luck in thinking it all through. While I feel some urgency around "getting on the bandwagon" right now, you know to make sure I get a bit of a piece of the digital frontier that's raging out there in true wild west fashion...the reality is, the changes in the publishing industry are giving us MORE options, not fewer, and taking our time isn't a bad thing. There is still plenty of time.
I see we all have a lot of things in common. I'm right there with Wordcaster right now. Work has been very stressful lately and its left me with no energy or creative juices, so to speak. I haven't written at all in almost two weeks and it makes me angry that my work is sucking so much out of me.
With that said, I wish I had an opportunity like yours, Philo. I am the sole breadwinner for my family of five. Although my husband takes care of the three kids so I don't have to worry, I spend most of my free time after work with them which leaves little time to write.
When do I write? Lunch breaks, fifteen minute breaks, middle of the night. Mostly I write when I'm avoiding doing work at work. Do I feel guilty about it. Sometimes but its like someone else said, you have to make yourself happy sometimes. I know I do if I want to stay sane!
Thank you for this post. Like Wordcaster, I needed this kick in the pants.
Thanks for all the kind words, and it is somewhat comforting to know that others also share my frustration. I let my current employer know where things stand (they can't fire me - they don't have anyone to replace me - and it is very difficult to put new people into a school without someone already there). They are jumping through some hoops for me, but I feel like its too little too late. On the down side, I'm not finding any jobs that I would like - and ended up applying for higher paying jobs in areas in which I have experience. Still tons of paperwork, but I'm getting tired of being beat up every day by 5th graders - they are big 5th graders and restraint regulations tie my hands, so to speak, in what I can do to protect myself (one of my emotionally disturbed kids has a black belt in karate).
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Philo, I heard something on the X Factor tv show tonight (cheesy as all heck but still entertaining) that made me think of this thread and all of our frustrations and dreams and wishes for more hours in the day.
There was a woman auditioning, she's 42, she is a single mom of two kids - 3 yrs old and a baby just 5 mos old. She talked about having had doubts about herself before, having been talked down and pushed around by an old flame, having caught herself believing that negative talk for a while.
Then she got on stage and Simon Cowell asked her something about why she was there and she said, "Simon, I just can't die with all these songs still stuck inside!"
And then she went on to sing Aretha's Natural Woman and just killed it. The audience was on their feet, she got a standing ovation from the judges, it was incredible.
So there it is. I just can't die with all these stories still stuck inside. By hook or by crook, I have to figure out how to make it work. I'm pretty sure I can. How about you?
For myself, I've not been waiting as long as a lot of you, so I won't claim to have run the marathon at almost 30. But at least from way back here, it still feels like I have.
I'm self-employed running a restaurant with my wife, 60 hours for my part. We don't make much, not enough to live on but fortunately (and unfortunately), her parents own a non-functioning farm and we have both wanted to learn to live self-sufficiently. So getting home at night, there's a small number of animals that need feeding and on the weekends maintenance work. Minus one day just for rest.
Honestly, I hate it here and in this situation. But I have learned that our needs really are not that big, and if we sacrifice some of our wants, with hard work we can work modestly at something we love. We don't have cable (though I would splurge for high-speed internet), or a new car (if you drive right, a 99 escort can get 30-36 mpg, and a 91 civic can get 35-40), we order in and treat ourselves to ice cream once or twice a month, all in all. It wouldn't be enough to live on if we had to pay more than utitlities to live here, but...
If I was making minimum wage, I could pay to keep the place we live in with utilities, run the garden and feed a small flock of goats, live simply, and have the time and money to write a little each day.
Not to say its as simple as all that. I'm not there, and I wouldn't be as close as I am if parents hadn't passed down their hard won inheritance to the next generation. But if we can learn to live simply and self-sufficiently, I think it removes a lot of headaches that make it hard to get to those things we really love like tending a garden of children...or writing.
That's just my thought from here. Give up the pizazz (if you can, not overnight obviously), live simple, and follow your art.
Jesse, where's your restaurant? If I'm in the area, I'll stop by. Although it would probably have to be within 10 miles of my house for me to actually be in the area... but still. Let us know.
As for my own frustration, it's there. I don't think we can really get where we want to be without hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. Choosing a career requires one to be selfish in one fashion or another. But normally it's done in the early twenties when there's little obligation to others beside oneself. (I'm referring to college.)
Mere months after I was married, I decided to take this writing thing more seriously. It's been nearly 6 years now and every morning I am up before my wife. It makes me sad that she wakes up every day to an empty bed. Monday through Monday, I'm down here pounding away on the keyboard, writing, editing, criting, posting... Which of course makes me tired earlier at night than she.
"Want to watch a movie?" "Can't, I'm too tired." Sigh.
She's been very understanding of my dream, but I won't say it hasn't taken a toll. We're not as close as we used to be, as close as I wish we still were. Granted, having a baby had a hand in that, but even before he was born the distance was widening...
You can look us up on Facebook, We're the "Happy Turtle Soup Tureen" though on our sign and on google we've dropped soup tureen. People just don't want soup that much here =(
Sacrifice is necessary, and its hard to figure out the right sacrifice to make. I think a marriage should be first, though in seasons of life it may change. I frankly can't drag myself away from my wife before my wife wakes up (though she does go back to sleep). Running a restaurance where we work different shifts, we don't have a lot of time otherwise.
A very wise man once said that no success can compensate for failure in the home. I'm with enigmaticuser, on the marriage being the first priority.
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A book on a bookshelf is a dry cold thing. The overwhelming vast majority will come and make a splash with a few hundred or thousand readers. Or many thousands. And fade into oblivion. In a few months the majority of readers will have forgotten. And you're left with a puff of silicone on a dusty hard drive.
It is frustrating to want and dream of something and not have the time. But it is crushing to look back on ten years, or fifteen, or twenty and realize your dream was nothing but smoke. And all the time the joy was right there in front of you. And you missed it and pushed it away looking beyond the mark.
The anticipation of publication, of one more story, of one more try for the brass ring can become a monster, a molech, that demands the things that are the most dear. If you're not careful, you'll sacrifice them up to it. And you'll look back and mourn the loss.
My sister's husband died last week from brain cancer. He fought for almost two years. When first diagnosed, his doctors told him he wouldn't recover. It was only how long he would survive. He left five children and a wife behind. The oldest has just gone to college. He realized he'd wasted so much time on nonsense. He didn't even know his children's friend's names. But his looming death focused him. Gave him some time to turn to them. It's not that he wasn't there at all before; but there was so much he traded away. He's terribly missed. But he gave them that gift in the end as he struggled to live.
Writing can be a great thing if we don't let it become a monster that distracts us with its promises while going behind our backs and consuming our lasting joys.
I'm not saying that writing can't be a joy. It can. But there's a time and a season. Find joy today. And if writing can be part of that, splendid. If not, writing will be there another day.
Find joy, bright sunny, happy joy today. Love those around you. If you can make the time, write. If not, do not mourn the loss. Turn instead to the opportunities right in front of you.
[This message has been edited by johnbrown (edited October 15, 2011).]
Well, honestly, I don't have much time to write, but I do have some time to write. I'm working around 50+ hours a week at my regular job, my wife has a condition that requires me to do 90 percent of the house work and yard work, and I also do a lot of church service. This leaves me precious little time to do anything else. So, I get up at 5 am and write for about 40 minutes, then I eat breakfast and get my exercise done, then it's off to work to begin the rest of the day. I feel like everyone can squeeze five minutes out of their day, but if I had a wife that was making a good income and was able to support me in the pursuit of my dream, I'd count it a blessing and work like heck to make it pay off. Dump the pride and get to work.
That being said, despite all the things I mentioned above, I still count my life as a blessing, including my wonderful wife who didn't ask for the diseases she has. I'm happy to take care of her in whatever way I can, and if that means I don't sell any of my novels for another ten or twenty years, so be it. In the words of Max Lucado: “God gives us people to love and things to use, not things to love and people to use.”
[This message has been edited by Smaug (edited October 16, 2011).]
I gave my two weeks notice today. I do not have a new job lined up, but I have several interviews in the near horizon. I have chickened out on the whole "no paperwork" thing, and I am interviewing for positions similar to my previous one - much better pay with different paperwork ( maybe a little less). As much as I would like to have a job that I could leave and not think about until the next morning, there is no way I could justify the difference in income unless I wrote a best seller (with the right contract). Besides, I loved my old job. Whatever happens, I will probably have a small break, during which I plan to write.