Are you struggling to finish the project that just won’t end? Did you receive a rejection letter recently? Feel like you’re beating your head against a wall or stretched too thin? Us too. Time to re-evaluate and ask why do I write?
Lisa: Here’s the thing–I would write even if no one ever paid me for it (though I’m hoping none of my clients read this). I write because I can’t not write. I dream in stories. I create stories while standing in lines. I write to help others. My first response to a humanitarian disaster or social injustice is to query a magazine editor because everyone needs to know about this and DO something to help.
For me, writing is not an occupation, it’s a vocation.
Let me tell you – the writing you do because you want to is way more fun than the writing you have to do. Weird irony there. I got pretty good at the kind of writing I don’t really want to do, but is helping to pay the bills and hopefully build credibility. Usually I work for less than market value because ‘it’s for a good cause.’ And I don’t mind, because I’m writing. But someday, all this hard work and sacrifice will hopefully see me pay a few bills with my fiction. Someday.
My house is in complete disarray. I do enough cleaning to keep the health department away. There is a toy horse, Mario and Luigi, and a tiny Imperial Starship that aren’t mine on my desk (the Lara Croft poseable figure with guns aimed at my head – she’s mine). We measure laundry in piles, and I can’t remember the last time I vacuumed. I take my laptop to cheerleading practice and swim lessons, edit my novel while I cook supper, and routinely stay up until 1 or 2am in the summer to meet deadlines because I have 3 kids at home all day. And I’m tired.
Marcy: On the bad days, I’d tell you I write because I’m a glutton for punishment. On the good days, I’d make a joke about being able to work in my shlumpy clothes and set my own hours. Most days, I’d tell you I write because my husband and I are living on my income while waiting for his immigration to Canada to be approved, and I’m completely unqualified for any job that wouldn’t make me start daydreaming about being kidnapped by aliens 10 minutes in.
And there are elements of truth in all those answers, but the whole truth is I write because I don’t know how not to. I’m always asking “what if” and trying to write something worthwhile. I wake up in the middle of the night with story ideas I have to write down.
Part of the writing I do is work. The “day job” writing isn’t fun. (I know, I know. “You’re complaining about being able to write all day?!”) One day I hope to be able to leave it behind to write novels full-time. I believe in the power of fiction to change lives.
Yet even though the day job writing is supposed to be a means to an end, if it was all I could have, I’d write anyway.
I feel most like myself when I’m writing. I feel like the words I write can help someone, can make a difference. And that makes it all worth it.
If you visit my house, you’re likely to trip over the cats’ ping pong balls and the Great Dane puppy’s slobbery purple hippopotamus because I’d rather sneak in a few more minutes of writing or editing than clean up toys they’ll pull out again as soon as I turn my back. My husband knows the look that means we’re eating Subway for supper again because I’m on deadline. At night, I fall asleep with my laptop on my lap, my chin on my chest, and a cat draped across my legs. I haven’t had a day off since 2010.
Have you sorted out the priorities in your life whether you have kids at home or work at a day job? Why do you write? What sacrifices do you make? Would you ever give it up?
Marcy & Lisa