Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What's Been Stopping You From Writing?

Every time I send an email out to someone lately, I cringe at my perky little "Check out my blog!" note that automatically attaches to the end of each email. I have even erased it several times to avoid being seen by the recipient because I know if they actually DO check out my blog, they will be sorely disappointed.

Writing has been hard for me lately - not just the blogging, but the actual writing, working on my books. I'm not stuck. I think about my revision all day long; I know exactly what I need to do and how to do it. But when I sit down at the computer to work, I shut down.

Why? What's stopping me?

Things have been busy around here. My daughter started her junior year in high school and a job at McDonald's, so she's juggling work schedules, PSAT/ACT/SAT prep, and AP classes. My son started middle school and is adjusting to the increase in tests and homework plus playing flag football for his school. My youngest started third grade and has an increase in homework too plus basketball. Put that together with my husband's full-time job and his part-time National Guard job that may as well be a full-time job and dentist appointments and doctor appointments and school functions - and well, yes, life has been over-the-top busy.

But while that has contributed to my lack of productivity, that's not totally it. My life is always ridiculously stressed like that. Whose isn't?

I think my productivity problem has more to do with me trying to justify the time I put into writing. It is something I enjoy tremendously, but I don't get paid to do it - and who is to say I ever will be? How do I justify all the time I spend on it when it is not something I 'have' to be doing and there are chores to be done, a household to run, kids to attend to? I look at other stay-at-home moms and all they do at their kids' schools, at home, etc. and I feel like a failure. I volunteer, but not as much as others do, and half of them have REAL jobs. I don't. I have nothing critical going from 7 AM to 3 PM five days a week.

This past June my stepsister lost her battle with cancer. She fought hard for about four years and all the while she was giving her seven kids and husband a hundred and twenty-five percent in addition to helping people in her church and community. She was one of those rare people that makes everyone a better person just by knowing her. I look at Leslie and how much she did for everyone, how she was going all the time, doing for others while fighting her own battle inside, and quite frankly, it makes me think, what the hell am I doing? How is spending hours a day writing a book helping anyone? How is sitting at a computer creating fictitious characters and fictitious worlds doing anything constructive for the rest of the world?

I know that a happy mom makes happy children. And, writing isn't something I am doing to make money anyway - it is a part of me, like breathing, and when I am not writing, I get depressed and stir-crazy. But how do I justify writing instead of say, cleaning house? How do I justify shutting that door to the world outside to immerse myself in a fictitious world when there are real chores and real problems to be dealt with?

This is what has been stopping me from being productive lately, so I thought I'd share. Maybe if I still have a few readers out there who haven't given up on reading my consistently non-existent blog, you'd care to share how you justify the time you spend on writing?

7 comments:

Elizabeth Mosier said...

I have a friend, Susan Messina, who has kept an index card with her impression of every book she has read since she was a child. When I'm tempted to think writing isn't important, I remember Susan -- who reminds me that writing is providing readers sustenance, just as the meals we spend more of our days making for our families!

Jacqui said...

I think this is a constant question for a lot of people. But I also think there's something wrong about your initial assumption that you need to "justify" the time you spend writing, or that every second needs to be in service of other people. Sometimes, you get to do something for you.

Diane T said...

I look at it two ways: first, writing is an investment in your future career. The only way to improve as a writer is to write, write, write. Think of taking time to write taking a class, only it's cheaper and more frustrating.

The second thing I consider is how I'm setting an example for my son. He sees me write, sees the rejection letters that come, but sees me continually working to get better. If I just quit, what kind of example would I be setting for him? He's learning that writing is a tough business (which is good because he likes to write, too, but knows he needs a backup plan); he's also learning that if you have a dream, you don't give up on it just because it's hard or frustrating.

I'm sure the kids will appreciate that reasoning the next time you forget to make dinner because you're rewriting Chapter Four. ;)

Laura Ellen said...

Yes, Libby, I guess what we write is like sustenance - if only we could serve them instead of slaving over a meal!

Love the pic Jacqui! I know I shouldn't feel like I need to justify it, but so often I find myself doing just that to people who don't see it the same way, you know?

I agree with you Diane. My kids do see me working and reworking things over and over and I hope that does teach them that nothing comes easy.

Thanks gals!

Kristin said...

I hear you Laura - it's like you were inside my head listening to my own thoughts! I struggle with this again and again, and it's always so easy to go back to my social work career where I feel competent and know I'm contributing. But writing (and reading) is what I'm passionate about - it's one of the ways we contribute to our world - by expressing ideas for others to enjoy, share, and learn. And now that my daughter knows I'm writing, it's even more important for me to stick with it. Through me, she is learning to be persistent and pursue her dreams. Hang in there Laura!

Laura Ellen said...

Thanks Kristin! You hang in there too!I had my critique group meeting last night and they gave me a good talking to -- I feel inspired again!

Ann B said...

I know I am kind of late in adding to this, but just want to add my two cents as a non-writer. How do you justify it? Because it is a gift. A gift that you have to share. I appreciate every author that has ever given me a few minutes of escape, inspiration, laughter, and even tears. Thank God for all of you out there doing it.