She caught me off guard with
that question. She sat down for an appointment and instead of pitching her
projects she launched into how her kids were interrupting her writing time, how
church and work and just life in general left her no time to write. She listed
obstruction after obstruction and said when she did find time to write that it
wouldn’t come, that she was getting nowhere with it. Then she hit me with that
question.
I didn’t hesitate a heartbeat
but just said “yes.”
She was probably expecting a
pep talk or at least for me to commiserate with her. I didn’t. I said, “I think
anyone who can quit writing should do so. All of the writers I know CAN’T quit.
They have words inside them that have to come out. The serious writer simply
has to do it.”
Writing is not easy. There is
never time to do it, and there is a huge amount of frustration and difficulty
involved. Why would anyone put themselves through it if they didn’t have to?
Oh, I know there are those who say “When the kids leave I’ll have time to
write.” Or when I retire, or if I come into money, or any other factor in their
life that will create this big block of time where they can easily write.
Never happens. Life expands
to fill the amount of time available. There is always something to take up the
time. The serious writer has to carve out writing time and jealously protect it.
Maybe there are people who can dabble at it, a fun little diversion that they
do here and there, and they don’t stress over it or worry about it not
producing the results they want to have. That’s someone who writes as a hobby,
and that’s okay. It makes a nice little hobby if they don’t care about getting
a lot of books out and can settle for hobby results, a few books to family and
friends, maybe a few outsiders.
But if they have to start
trying to write better, to reach more people, to get serious about it. Then it
won’t let them be, and it can be a hard taskmaster. Sure, if you can quit, do
so, and spend your time on something easier that provides quicker
gratification.
She left stone-faced, shaken.
I saw her the next day and she said, “I took your advice and felt an immediate
peace come over me that I could let it go. But it kept coming back nagging at
me. Finally I realized that I really can’t quit.”
I smiled at her. “Then quit
making excuses and feeling sorry for yourself. You don’t have any more things
fighting to steal your time than anyone else. All writers face it, even the
ones that seem to be writing full time and that is all they do. Don’t believe
it. They are warding off constant things that want to steal their time. They
just have to be disciplined and protect that time no matter what.”
She nodded and said she
understood. “Everyone else has been feeling sorry for me and telling me things
will get better. You’re the first one that has ever slapped me in the face and
told me I should quit or get on with it.”
Really? Maybe there are
others who need a wake up call on protecting their writing time. Why did I know
what to say so easy? Because being an agent has stolen almost all of my writing
time. Oh, the job had some help from family, church and life in general, but I
made a conscious decision that helping other writers was more important than my
own writing and now I get to do precious little of it. I was talking to myself
as much as I was talking to her.