If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “It must be so nice to do nothing all day and just sit at home!” I could actually sit home all day doing nothing.
America’s office culture makes most social interactions for a writer weird.
Them: “So, where do you work?”
Me: “I work at home.”
Them: “Oh, like, massage therapy or something?”
Me: “No, I actually write books.”
Them: “Oh…” *long and unhealthy pause* “Like TWILIGHT or like dinosaur erotica? I mean, not that I’m judging or anything, but is it angsty teen vampires or dino peen? ’cause I’m tweeting this and people want to know.”
Yeah, it’s awkward.
Of course there’s the people on the other side of the fence. The ones who know I write books.
Them: “It must be so great to be a writer and do nothing all day but create!”
Me: “Yeah, it’s really fun. I love my job!”
Them: “You know, I’m going to write a book too one day.”
Me: “That’s awesome!”
Them: “I can’t right now because I have a kid, and well, you probably don’t know what it’s like having kids at home. Or friends. Or a social life. But I’m way too busy to write books!”
*awkward pause as one of my four kids comes up to demand my attention*
Me: “Oh, those gosh darn kids. I can see why no one with children has ever written a book. Ever. At all. I may be lying…”
When you become a successful writer (or even a desperately-working-to-become-a-successful-household-name writer) people like to come up to you and ask what your schedule is. If you go to Google you can search for daily habits of famous authors.
10am – morning whiskey and eggs
11am to 3pm – write
3:15pm – adulterous affair with parlor maid
3:30 pm to 6pm – read newspaper
6pm – supper with other gentlemen of means
7pm – diatribe about women getting above their place and acting like humans
8pm to 11pm – objectify women and criticize their clothing
12am – try on women’s drawers
1am – dual with Lord Soinso on Parliament lawn wearing skirts
3am – fall in bed in drunken stupor
At least I assume that’s how all the literary greats lived out their days. They certainly didn’t spend them raising children, at least not according to their diaries. I dunno… there’s this assumption that men who write have a loving (possibly wealthy) wife who handles the domestic and wordly affairs while they commune with their muse (usually in the form of alcohol), and that women who write are either spinsters (looking at you Jane), childless, or older women with no familial obligations. This is based largely on the very outdated and misogynistic idea that a man’s parental duty ends at conception and that women with children can’t think about anything but diapers.
This attitude more than anything accounts for all the “I want to write a book but I’ve never found the time…” daydreamers in the world.
If you keep telling someone they can’t do something they’ll eventually believe you.
Let’s bury those myths and mountains, shall we?
Myth #1: You need to be independently wealthy to write
… lies! Most authors are either supported by a significant other or a full-time job, but very few of them are trust fund babies rolling in money. Some of the most famous authors you know were single parents and working poor when their first book came out.
Myth #2: You’ll never find time to write if you have kids
… lies! I four kids and I still find time. More to the point I make time to write. The real difference between daydream and reality here is that the people who get things done make the time to do it. If writing is important to you, you will find time to write, even if it’s sending yourself 15 minutes worth of badly spelled writing you typed out on your phone on a bumpy bus ride into work.
Myth #3: The only way to make money publishing is to know someone
… lies! Unless you’re talking about knowing yourself. That much you need to have. Know what you love, know how much work you can reasonably put into self-promotion, know your limits, and know your strengths. Line those up the right way and you can do anything.
Myth #4: There is only One True Path to publishing and it is __________
… lies! Self-publishing, publishing with a small press, and publishing with a big press are all fabulous options. What works for you isn’t what works for anyone else. What works for one book of yours may not work for your next book. Research all avenues of publication and then decide where you belong.
Myth #4: If I don’t have my family’s support I can’t write
… lies! Mostly. Listen, in April my 8th title comes out. Since 2009 I’ve published three novellas, four short stories, and in April my first novel comes out. Guess how many of those titles my parents have bought or read? Mind you, several of those short stories are free. Go on. Guess… did you guess zero? (EDIT: This is now 2 because of the print editions)
Guess how many books my loving and supportive spouse of thirteen years has read (he doesn’t buy them because I load them on the e-reader for free)? He’s read two.
There are different kinds of support. It’s hard to write if your spouse/roommate/lover/kids/whoever shares the house with you doesn’t give you time and space to write. It’s frustrating when they question why you’re wasting your time, or ask when you’ll get a real job. But you don’t need them cheering you on. There are amazing online writing resources for authors of all ages. There are strong writing communities on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other social media sites (check out the #amwriting hashtag sometime). You can get feedback from writing communities like Absolute Write and Critique Circle.
In a perfect world your family would fully understand what you do, buy all your books, and expertly critique your work. In a less than perfect world you have to make do with what you have. Tell your loved ones that writing makes you happy and healthy, ask for 30 minutes a day (or make that time when they aren’t around), and get the rest of your support from the community of writers that is already out there and ready to cheer on new authors.
What does my day look like? It’s getting up hours before dawn (less impressive now that I live in Alaska), getting four kids out the door for school, entertaining the 3-year-old, walking the dog, dodging moose, cleaning house, running errands, volunteering for local charities, emailing people about a million crazy things, spending far too much time on Twitter (@LianaBrooks), making a to-do list before I go to bed, and carving out time to write every day, plus edits as needed. A majority of my day is spent thinking about books, but not doing any physical writing. I plot things while I clean the kitchen. I make up dialog while I’m waiting at the school carpool line. I scribble down ideas for scenes on my to-do list so that when I wake up the next morning I can write my 1000 words for the day without hesitation.
Next time you’re facing your Wall of Nope, kick it on down and remember that when you want something, nothing can stop you.
So, what are you going to create today?