Tag Archives: writer’s life

A Village

Every once in awhile, I think I should, must, no other option available, quit writing. It isn’t that I don’t want to write, it’s that I think I can’t write well enough, basically that I suck. On my really dark days, I worry I’m like one of those contestants on a reality talent show who thinks they’re the next Adele only to be told they’re delusional and shouldn’t leave their day job

Recently, I had one of those days after having submitted my latest work-in-progress to my critique group. When word came down—go back, it’s not good enough—no hyperbole, I was DEVASTATED, CRUSHED, a snivelling, whimpering puddle of pathetic doggy dodo.

Never before have I worked so hard to come up with—what I believed I was hearing—such a shitty piece of writing. How could this be? How could I have gotten it so wrong? I’ve quit my day job to give myself the time and space to create literary masterpieces for GD sake.

Then something wonderful happened. My writer friends rallied around me—more than one carrying a sharp stick happily aimed at my ribcage. Some of the very people who were (politely) telling me they weren’t feeling a connection to my characters and didn’t care to turn the page, were the very people who sent me private emails, called me on the phone, offered to look at my re-writes before I re-submitted and took me out for tea. They helped me realize that when I thought I heard, it’ll NEVER be good enough, you loser, what was really being said was, it’s not good enough YET. Who were these wonderful folks? They were my tribe, my peeps. I’d reached out my hand and they’d pulled me away from the cliff. My tribe believed in me. Maybe I didn’t suck

People, all people, need connection in the same way as they need food and water. Connection is a necessity not a luxury. Every one of us, not just writer, but I think especially writers who by the nature of the beast spend a lot of time in their heads, need to know they aren’t alone. This week, I was reminded I’m part of a village.

So, to those of you who are at the early stages of your writing careers, I would suggest you join a writing group and work on building your own tribe. Step away from your computer and introduce yourself to your village. Because if you’re serious about becoming a writer, you’ll absolutely have a dark-night-of-soul somewhere along your journey, and you’re going to need that village. It’s going to take courage and a spirit of adventure, but I promise you will get back tenfold what you give to your tribe and your village.

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5 Ways to Writer Proof Your Life

Current Closet OfficeThis past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a writer’s conference and spent a big chunk of the day in the company of two younger women who between them have seven children under the age of nine. I applaud these brave women who, despite their young families, are still working hard at their craft. I know when my three children were little I neither read nor wrote for fifteen years. It is no small feat juggling work, family and a passion. My hat is off to you ladies and your commitment.

So the question is how does a writer (or any artist for that matter) balance a writing life with the rest of their life?

Unplug

The first thing I would suggest is, if you live with a lot of people, buy yourself some good earplugs. Although my children are now grown, they haven’t all left the nest and my house is packed to the rafters. I know with 100% certainty that I would never have written a single word over the last ten years if it weren’t for earplugs. Earplugs and a commitment to make my life work are what help me survive the mayhem.

I live in a 2,000 sq. foot house with six other people (three generations ranging in age from 62 yrs – 2 yrs), a sixteen-year-old, ailing dog and four cats. (Some days I peer around my noisy, nuthouse and honestly wonder whether I’m in fact, living in a displaced person’s camp or maybe an animal rescue shelter.) We have a suburban sized lot and at present five people are sharing my car. Lucky me. Well yeah, I am lucky. Although it often (very often) doesn’t feel like a good thing to have so much activity swirling around me, I think my art benefits from our offbeat life.

Plug In

I strongly suggest that whatever your current living arrangements are, steal from your own life. The craziness of my house provides me with endless story ideas and plot twists. If last night’s brouhaha over wet rags left in a toddler’s bicycle basket vs. abandoned pop cans, juice glasses and coffee mugs on a workbench is any indication, I will never run out of material.

Space Out

I envy writers who are able to write anywhere, coffee shops, food courts, but I’m not one of them. I need a designated writing space. Never having had the luxury of spreading my family out over a 10,000 sq foot mansion or 50 acres of land, I’ve had to be creative when it comes to creating a writing space for myself. When I was a teenager my mother moved us (herself and four kids) to a three bedroom apartment. Finding space to steal away and write seemed impossible until I discovered our walk-in closet. I pushed my desk into the closet and pulled the door closed. In creating my closet office, I’d found a safe place to pour my teenage heart out onto the page. Today, I still have limited space to call my own and have once again created a closet office. Five years ago, I turned the smallest room in the house into my office and in an attempt to maximize the space, pushed my desk into the closet. TaDa!

Disconnect

Seems like a pretty simple suggestion and we all know what we have to do, but most of us are not always strong enough to do it. So I implore you, please help yourself by reducing your opportunities to diddle. Disconnect (or at very least shut off) Facebook, Google and your email account. If you are really good, and manage to get a lot done in the allotted time you’ve set aside for writing, reward yourself with an hour of playtime on your computer, but not until you are satisfied with your writing efforts. No cheating.

TVless

Do not have a TV in your writing room. If you have a favourite show and it airs during your writing time, watch it later on cable on demand, or on the internet (to be considered your computer playtime) once you’ve finished work. Simple but true.

If you allow it to, life will suck the artist right out of you. But…if you embrace your wild and crazy life, I promise you, your art will become a living, breathing wonder.

 

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