Writing Life: What It Took To Get Where I Wanted to Be

One of my writing loops engaged in an interesting conversation yesterday about the sacrifices involved in a writing career. A newly published author was experiencing a few growing pains as she got used to her new life and contended with some issues with the people around her who were sometimes less than understanding of what it took to get to this point. I thought I'd share what I said to her. I've received a flood of off-loop responses from members who said it was a good reminder that nothing good happens overnight or without tremendous sacrifice. This is what I said...

I wanted to chime in on this because I have SO been there myself. More than eight years ago, when I started to get serious about writing and pursuing publication, I had a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old as well as a full-time job that was way more than full time, which I only quit in December 2011. I realized I was going to need to make some major sacrifices to get where I wanted to be with my writing career. This is how I approached it:

1. I cut back on the socializing, which led to my friends being catty at times about my lack of availability. I'm okay with that. I made no excuses and I still don't. I do what I can, and when I'm with them, I'm 100 percent there. No checking my phone or thinking about work. I'm all about them for those few hours. I also keep in touch with a lot of my friends via a quick email to check in or a text message that says hi, I'm thinking of you. Texts take less time than phone calls do.

2. I started saying no to requests for my time that weren't directly related to my children, my immediate family, or my work. No volunteering at school unless my kids were directly involved, no outside commitments that aren't absolutely necessary.

3. I worked every, single night after my kids went to bed until at least 1 am--for YEARS. I used to think, "I can sleep when I'm dead." :-)

4. I quit drinking any kind of alcohol, because if I had one glass of wine at dinner, I'd want to go to bed. If I didn't, I was good for three more hours. So that was a no-brainer. To this day, I don't drink--at all--because it makes me too tired to work at night.

5. I never cut myself off from my family. If you don't have a laptop, get one. When my kids were younger, I was always right out in the living room with them, writing or dealing with email or updating my website or posting to Facebook when they were sitting right next to me watching the same movie I was ignoring. All they cared about was that I was sitting next to them. If you can't work with your kids underfoot, put the computer down until they go to bed or you will find yourself with kids who feel you aren't giving them enough attention. But wait, it gets better: they become teenagers and don't want to hang out as much with you. My kids are 14 and 17 now, and don't require nearly as much hands-on attention. We have a good groove where they know to let me work and to speak up when they truly need me. They also knew, at a very young age, the difference between blood and ARTERIAL blood. One you interrupt mom to deal with. The other you do not. :-)

6. I write every day--365 days a year. Even if it's a couple hundred words, I write every day. When the turkey goes in the oven on Thanksgiving, I write. After the kids open their gifts on Christmas, I write. In the morning on vacation, I write. I still do this, long after I got everything I ever hoped for and then some in this business. It's a good habit to get into no matter where you are in your career. No one in my life, even the people who live with me, appreciates just how much time and effort goes into my "job." And the bigger it gets, the greater the demands. I just hired a full-time assistant because I couldn't do it all myself anymore and continue to meet my deadlines. The first time she answered a reader email for me, I cried. But I can't do that and write the books too, so something had to give.

7. When good things started to happen, I shared the news with my family and friends so they could celebrate with me. I've been very lucky to have a husband, children and friends who were supportive of what I was doing. That doesn't mean I haven't had my issues with people who've begrudged my success. I could tell you a few stories about longtime friends who have disappointed me with their envy--and yes, that was hurtful and sad. I've come to realize VERY FEW people get to do exactly what they want to every day, and if you are one of them, no matter what stage you are in with your career, you are in the 1 percent of adults who are truly living their dreams. People will resent you for that. Don't take it on. It's their issue, not yours.

Those steps are what it took for me to get where I wanted to be. Today, I have a life that I could've only dreamed of a few years ago--and my books made it all possible. If you dream it, you can become it, but not without sacrifices. Don't apologize to anyone for doing what it takes to make your dreams come true. There is nothing sweeter than looking around at your dream home and knowing YOU MADE THAT HAPPEN one page at a time. There is nothing sweeter than knowing your child can go to any college he or she dreams of attending and you can pay for it because YOU MADE IT HAPPEN through sheer grit and determination. Drown out the noise, get to work and enjoy the ride.