Thursday, April 20, 2017

Intentionality and Sacrifices

When I was sixteen, I wrote the rough draft of TIME IN A BOTTLE for NaNoWriMo 2013. At the time, that rough draft was a trilogy of rough drafts, and the story, especially the ending, was markedly different than it is now. 

With DRACONIAN, I had already begun to realize that I edit best by rewriting everything word by word. But because I had never edited a project from start to finish, I wasn’t confident. Compounding this, I was only happy with the first three quarters of the first book. The rest I wanted to trash. 

When my sister challenged me to turn the trilogy into a duology, I took it a step further and consolidated the whole thing into one book. I ended up cutting all but 30K of the original 160K before adding another 50K of new material. 

When I was editing TIB, I let my first critique partner assign me a deadline, and then I worked as hard as I could to meet that deadline. I began getting up at 4:30 every morning (which I later changed to 4:00), and I wrote for an hour before school. After school, I edited until supper, and then after supper too, if I could. Weekends were amazing. I would watch Star Trek on Friday nights and then edit until midnight. Once I finished my Saturday chores, I usually had the whole day to edit as well. Sundays I would try to take off, but often I ended up editing for at least an hour. 

Essentially, I turned into a hermit. It frustrated me when other people threw work at me without giving me advance warning, because I wanted to be able to cancel my scheduled breaks from editing accordingly and not waste a whole day due to lack of communication. I didn’t do much socially, but I still got out some. I didn’t even start a blog until I was almost ready to start querying, because I wanted all my time for editing. I did, however, take the whole summer off from writing. 

There were complaints that I was missing out, putting too much stress on myself, being selfish with my time, etc…

But when I look back at that time, I remember it as the best year of my life, and I want to replicate it, to immerse myself like that again. I miss sacrificing things for writing. I don’t regret that lost socialization. I don’t regret that I read less and slept less. I wrote a book and, trunked or not, I am so so happy with that accomplishment. 

As I started querying, though, the discouragement of rejection after rejection began to set in, and I started to listen to the people who told me (in so many words) that writing wasn’t worth that level of committement, that my time was not my own, that I was unlikely to succeed anyway, and so on and so forth. I stopped prioritizing writing and, instead, let it fall to hobby status. When I wrote TIME IN A BOTTLE, I treated it like a full-time (though unpayed) job; when I started feeling like I didn’t have the right to do that, I barely accomplished anything, and I became increasingly depressed. 

Lately, I’ve been working to get back to that writing-as-a-full-time job mindset, carving out space on my schedule when I have to, even scaling back a bit on reading. I still socialize, and I still do things for others, but I am more intentional about how I use my time. I don't want to feel guilty about viewing writing as a responsibility; I want to stop listening to people who see it only as an indulgence. It is not selfish to build my career. 

It boils down to this: If you are serious about writing as a job, if you think it's what you’re supposed to be doing, you have to be intentional about it. You have to make sacrifices (but not the animal/human kind; we've talked about this). Obviously, balance is important, and experiencing a fuller life will give you more to write about. I’m not saying you should retreat into the woods and never show your face. I'm not saying you should skip out on relationships. There will be other requirements on your time that you will not always be able to ignore. But if you consistently let people guilt you into making writing take back burner, writing will not happen. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? What are your thoughts? What are some things that make it harder for you to carve out writing time? 


  1. Yes, I do find it hard. Sometimes I wonder if I've made things to hard for myself. But I'm trying to find the right balance, and I hope I find it soon. :P

  2. Really, really interesting post. I've always struggled with a writing-life balance. For the past few months, I haven't been blogging to focus on my rewrites. I'm still struggling with the balance. I think you were really insightful when you talked about not feeling guilty for taking time for your writing. Something to think about for sure...

  3. This is a wonderful post. I think finding that balance between writing and "real-life" is one of the most difficult things to achieve, especially if you aren't sure about pursuing it as a career. I'm glad that you're working on finding something that works for you and your goals.

  4. Great post, Liz! I too have had the full-time commitment attitude then had people dissuade me into dwindling my writing into hobby status. That's something I've been really struggling with since last year with my novels. Also you're not alone with the rewriting every word helps with editing. I'm doing that right now. ^ ^ Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. I haven't sacrificed much time for writing myself. However, hopefully I'll attend a writing course after the summer holidays.

  6. So true! A lot of people don't understand that writing a book is a solitary thing (publishing is way different though. . .), so if they want to read what they keep begging to read, they have to leave us alone. XD I remember some writing advice that said to be "selfish" with your time, that it was ok to take time out of socializing for writing. Honestly, I need to get back to that too. Great post!

  7. YES TO THIS! I'm actually planning on doing something similar this summer, treating writing like a literal full-time job and making sure to clock 8 hours per weekday of writing/writing-related activities. Because I am serious about this becoming my career, and I want to take this time to build it.

    Thanks for the awesome post!