Friday, March 6, 2009

A look at the desire to be published

Tip of the Day: If you write for teens, you should check out the show "Friday Night Lights." Great writing. Great story lines. Great characters! Tonight, NBC, be there or be square.

Agent Nathan Bransford had an AWESOME blog post yesterday that he called "Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer." It’s worth reading, and I hope you do.

I thought I’d talk about one of his commandments here today, because I’m curious what people think about this one in particular.

He said:

"4. Don't neglect your friends and family. No book is worth losing a friend, losing a spouse, losing crucial time with your children. Hear me? NO book is worth it. Not one. Not a bestseller, not a passion project, nothing. Friends and family first. THEN writing. Writing is not an excuse to neglect your friends and family. Unless you don't like them very much."

When you read this, at first you go, well, DUH. Of course family and friends are more important than a book.

But think about this for a minute. We all know writing a book takes time. And dedication. A LOT of time. A LOT of dedication. Is it realistic that the relationships with your family and friends won’t suffer some times?

This weekend I have two books to revise. They are under contract. I have no choice – I have to work on them, because there are deadlines and all those fun things. So, this weekend, my writing comes first. I’m guessing Nathan understands there will be times when writing has to come first. So perhaps this is just a friendly reminder that it shouldn’t *always* come first. In fact, it probably shouldn’t come first very often.

However, I have seen people who seem SO driven to get a book published, they way they talk about writing and how much time they spend writing, sometimes I wonder if they do anything else BUT write. And I think that’s kind of sad. Because in the end, not a lot changes when you have a book on the shelf. Okay, things change, of course they do. But, for me, not a lot, really. For other more successful authors, things probably change more. I still go to my job 4 days a week. I still go grocery shopping and make sure my family is fed every day. I clean the toilets every other Saturday (except when I can get my kids do it). If anything, what’s changed is that my life is more hectic than it would be if I wasn’t published. I have to juggle my normal life with my authorly life and it’s HARD.

So why the drive? Why do people become so driven they start to neglect other things, to the point that relationships suffer and they risk losing important people in their lives? Is there a need to feel like his/her life has some kind of worth, and he/she thinks a published book will provide that? Because I’m here to tell you, it really doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful to have books published. I'm thankful for the little bit of extra money it's brought in. I’m thankful for the people who have written to me and said my book touched them. I’m thankful for ALL the incredible authors I’ve met and the friendships I’ve made. There are definitely good things that come along with it. But do they outweigh the struggles overall? I don't think I can answer yet, but just the fact that I can't answer with a resounding YES says something, doesn't it?

So those of you who aren't published - are there changes in your life you hope publishing brings? Do you think it's worth losing family and/or friends to become published, if that's what it takes?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career


Emily Marshall said...

Lisa, this is a really interesting question. One I don't think I can answer either, but I'm curious what other people say.

I imagine much of the desire comes from a need/want to be successful or simply wanted, as a person or an author. Whether that's feeling they made a stamp on someone else's life or the general public. Much the same way people want to succeed at a day job. Because the desire to publish is much different I imagine then wanting to simply enjoy writing or wanting to write.

Part of the reason I'd like to publish is to prove to myself that I can. That I can commit to something that doesn't come natural to me and succeed at it.

But it's nice to be reminded to not focus too much attention on it, because loosing friendships/family over it, is definitely not worth it. Neither is neglecting other things that bring me joy. And it's always nice to be reminded that getting published doesn't change things, and that we need to find joy out of writing in other ways too, otherwise we are doing ourselves a disservice.

Great post, and definitely something to think about.

Jennie said...

When I graduated from college, our commencement speaker (Robert Reich) gave us some very sage advice.

The most memorable being that we would fail at something in our lives and if we didn't, then we weren't taking the risks we need to, and that we needed to learn from our failures.

The other was that sometimes, work needed to come before family and life, but usually family and life should be your priority and that real wisdom lay in trying to figure out which times were which.

I found it to be very good advice that I'm still learning how to follow.

Emily Marshall said...

I like that comment Jennie. Very wise. I agree that work can sometimes come before other things, and that it's okay to focus on it more at certain times just as long as it doesn't take over your life.

And I was also going to say that I've heard another author say that the need to be published often comes to simply wanting to tell stories for other people's enjoyment. So I think that's alot of it too. Just merely wanting to bring joy to others, like reading has to you.

Kate Fall said...

Lisa, Emily and Jennie, you're all so well-spoken! Here I am at my day job and I'd much rather be with my family. But I have commitments and I have to follow through on them, and it sounds like you're in the same boat with writing right now, Lisa!

Nurturing any kind of talent--writing, playing tennis, quilting, dancing, whatever you're good at--is time consuming. Maybe people are hardwired to make the sacrifice for the good of the human race somehow? I feel guilty if I don't write for a few days, myself.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Em - I totally get the wanting to prove you can thing. I think that was a big part of it for me too!

Jennie - thanks for sharing those pearls of wisdom!

Kate - you are so right, nurturing a talent takes time. And as long as we try to balance things most of the time, I think that's the important thing.

Christina Farley said...

Lisa, very thought provoking! I think any job can take us away from our kids and family. Passions can get out control no matter what they are.

But still this is a great reminder. For me, my family usually doesn't suffer but I do. I push myself to be up really late or not take breaks and then I get sick. I think it's important as writers we give ourselves a break once in a while too!

DeenaML said...

I feel lucky right now that I don't have kids to worry about, and that my manpanion also has his creative musical pursuits. We understand each other, and I get it when he has to spend time at the studio, and he gets it when I have to spend time on the laptop. But we also are good at scheduling our free time around each other so we aren't being neglectful.

I want to publish a book bc I know I have good stories that people will appreciate. And I want to prove that I can. I don't give up on things. Stubborn? Probably. :) It took me 4 years to find my YA Librarian job and I never once stopped looking or gave up. Success takes time.