A Writer’s Life

Where do I start?

I picked up the November issue of More Magazine this morning. I am researching what essay I should send them next as http://www.more.com was good enough to publish I Don’t Want to Buy Tampons earlier this year.

Page 114’s headline shouted 10 Great Careers for Women who want a Life. I began reading. (Direct info from page 119 of magazine)  #7 was Writer. * Technical writer * web multimedia scriptwriter. Most Earn $53,070 Top 10% Earn $106,630 “Wendy Toliver, 38, an author of three young-adult novels who also ghost writes how-to and decorating books, does freelance corporate copywriting and editing, runs a writing camp for children in Eden, Utah, and keeps up two blogs.”   Umm, I’d like to know how Wendy does this. I’d like to call bullshit except for the fact I love knowing women are succeeding and earning a living and have a career in writing. This is what I’ve always wanted. But the earning reality for me is this:

More.come published my article without pay. I paid my way in LA when I performed in Expressing Motherhood. And my short stories that were published earned me copies of the literary journal they were published in (this is typical for literary journals as many struggle to survive). So I’ve earned approximately $16 in goods. That doesn’t cover an ink cartridge.

I’m not dissing my accomplishments of being published or listened to. I’m actually thrilled with my progress. I am. Every time I hear a,”Yes we like your stuff,” I do a happy dance and tell everyone I know and even those I don’t. Regardless of the thrill I’m not paying any bills.

Toliver goes on to say, “You need a thick skin, because there is a lot of rejection; patience, because the publishing process can take months; and discipline, because nobody will stand over you and make you write.” She also claims to write while in the bleachers and in cars.

I don’t know how she is so prolific. My child is in preschool full time and this is the first time ever in my life I’ve been able to dedicate serious time to my craft and time to what I love the most, writing. The thing is I don’t know how she writes so much.  I want to work the way she does. But comparing oneself to another is a dangerous thing.

I saw this today on Facebook

And this week I’m feeling even bluer because my writing group is falling apart. After more than a year of critiquing each others work in progress, we’ve hit a creative wall of sorts. And even though we have never met face to face I feel a great sense of loss because I’m losing feedback from women I trust and admire.

On top of that I am comparing myself to amazing writers that I know and have read. Have you read Kimberley Griffiths Little’s Circle of Secrets? If you are a YA fan or read MG than this is a must read.

She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary .  Tracey is a super cool woman and I adore her because she has been generous with her time and runs a kick ass agency, seriously you should check out the deals they do. I know successful writers such as (name dropping drum roll please) Tod Goldberg, Rachel Resnick (http://writersonfire.com/Welcome.html and http://www.rachelresnick.com/) , Samantha Dunn, Rob Roberge, Justine Musk, Lisa Manterfield, Monica Carter (PEN USA emerging voices participant) I can go on and on.

But I doubt any one of them would say that it’s easy having a “life” and be a writer. It’s hard work filling in blank pages. And I wake up in the middle of the night all the time with ideas for essays, short stories and my book. And I haven’t even ever received notes back from a publisher, and I’ve seen them. They are intense and take a great deal of time and focus to work through.

So what’s my point? I guess it’s this- I love writing but it’s an ass kicker of a career choice and to take it up full time in my 40’s is daunting.  I love my work-in-progress Life-Like. I can’t wait to have it ready for submissions to agents. But I have not developed the brain and finger muscles to write this blog, an essay a week,  work on revisions to my book while submitting those essays, short stories, and poems to magazines and literary journals and have any brain left to go food shopping, cook dinner, fold laundry or be a wife, mother or social person. Am I too hard on myself? Am I expecting the impossible?

Maybe it’s just this week, despite the never-ending support from my husband, I am feeling a creative backbone void. I miss my old Writer’s On Fire workshops and friends, I will miss those YA writers I’ve been working with online who need to step back and take care of their projects. I miss the magic of consistent creative feedback from others who are struggling to complete their first novels. There I said it.

So the thought that a writer’s life gives you time to have a life is true and a bunch of crap at the same time. I think you have to be incredibly driven which takes a great deal of time, as does the writing itself. Being a writer for me can be heartbreaking and exhilarating and I wouldn’t change a thing, excpet of course my earnings.

I guess I have to go find new people to write with. There are worse things in the world. Maybe a new group is exactly what I need.


14 thoughts on “A Writer’s Life

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  1. Thank you Holly for sharing your feelings. I completely understand what you are feeling and the state of being that goes along with those feelings.

    Here is a tip I have been given to re-connect to your inspiration and vision everyday. Write your vision statement about your writing/your writerly-self/projects. The vision is your ideal life as a writer in the present tense, all the feelings that give you joy and inspiration. Then take your vision statement and look at it everyday to embody what you are going to go after and watch
    your determination multiply.

    Hold yourself to succeeding no matter how many failures
    we will encounter, no matter what — YOU will succeed!!

    I hope this helps! Maybe we can exchange vision statements. Reach for the moon and you may ride on some shooting stars… 🙂

    Very best to you sister-writer.
    Meeta Kaur

  2. Holly,

    Thanks for this post. I’m pretty much asking the same questions–MFA in poetry and motherhood (3 kids, 10, 8, 5)…and a steady slow and tenacious believer in writing as a path. The dollars…are tough to come by yet without sacrificing something.

    But my youngest is finally in kindergarten; I now have mornings. I will be earning by teaching, starting once again to factor teaching in and still posting to blog and online zine I post for plus…I won’t list it all . It is frankly a lot! I seem to eventually get happy (usually after meeting with my writing partner, or after getting a poem acceptance, or finally coughing up a blog entry I feel proud of…)

    Just wanted you to know…I’m with you in spirit. The money will come.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story. years ago I thought about getting an MFA and Tod goldberg said,”Only get one if you want to teach. Otherwise save your money and just keep writing.” Those were excellent words of wisdom.

      1. Holly,

        I should add that I got the MFA before kids, and way before I could see a way to teach the way I want to. 10 years of part time community college teaching so I could still write, then 10 years of motherhood. But like u, I kept writing… So now that the kids are older, I’ve been able to piece together the kind of teaching life that I feel is rejuvenating my own.

        Which is really fun! I do think, hands down , the demands of raising little people is a challenge (while writing). Pattiann Rogers has some beautiful words about motherhood and writing, I think it was in the collection Degree and Circumstance.

        The secret seems to be to write no matter what. Most of my work is seeded by 3 and 5 minute snatches of journal entries.

        Thanks again for your post.

  3. Holly, I totally understand where you’re coming from, but I have to say I have a schedule very similar to Wendy Toliver’s: Here’s a post on one of my four blogs describing what I do: http://www.amemorabletimeofmylife.blogspot.com/

    I don’t know if this is the norm. However, I do know having a family to take care of, which I don’t, makes a huge difference. Another thing that takes the pressure off of me is that I don’t care if I make any money from writing. I would like to get published, but mostly because it’s a challenge, and I’d like to leave something to my family.

    I don’t think a writer’s life is easy, especially if you’re the kind of writer that absolutely has to write. It’s a lot of work and seems like it’s always with you in the form of words and ideas…in your head, on paper of the computer, in books, film, where ever. It inundates your life.

  4. Holly. It sounds so familiar. I share your sentiments exactly, as I started writing after 40 too. And the list of being miserable – that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so true. You’re right, short stories don’t pay. The most that I ever got for a short story is $15, but some time ago I set myself a resolution not to submit anywhere without at least $5 as a payment and I stick to it. And I’m also in need of a writers group, although I don’t write YA. I write classic fantasy. Do you think we could try to set up our own virtual writers group?
    Olga Godim, your fellow Late Bloomer.

    1. Olga,
      I love your resolution. We may be able to set up a virtual group. I am curious about testing mysef now. I think I may finish up the rewrites on my book solo and see what happens next. 🙂

  5. Of course, you know you can’t compare yourself to anyone, it will knock you over every time.. Everybody has a story, either a writer writing a story, or the human living in the writer’s body that has a life outside the love affair with writing. I have family, a husband who comes in and out of remission, I blog (yes, LOTS OF WORK) and finishing the edits on the book too me longer than I planned, BUT.. I kept going. I decided when I started I wasn’t going to pay attention to all the noise.. or get sucked into the negative side of writing. It’s the smartest thing I’ve done. Don’t give up.. and don’t compare or allow you mind to wallow. It’s tough, but good dreams always are.

  6. Hi, Holly.
    Yes, you are being too hard on yourself, and no. You’re not expecting the impossible, unless you want to do all of those thing all at the same time and all the time.
    I’m in my 40s, too, and I’m still what I like to call up and coming as an author, but for as exhausting as it is, I remind myself that exhaustion and all other experiences, especially the hardest ones, because they seem the longest, are transient. They are just passing through.

    Once you find a spare few minutes to organize your writing life, i.e., blogging, essaying, revising, etc., and your regular person life, i.e., wife, mother, social person, then I’m sure it’ll feel as refreshing as throwing out old clothes. But it’s okay to give yourself a break and not HAVE to do all things at all times. Sounds like you’ve got a great support system in your husband. He’ll probably support your taking a break now and then, too, to dedicate some time to your craft.
    Sorry to hear that your writing group is breaking up. I felt a similar sense of loss when mine seemed to dissolve right before my eyes. In fact, I was a little pissed. And in my heart, I called them all a bunch of un-dedicated pretenders; but there are quite a few good ones on She Writes that I know will help you refill that void that is in progress. I don’t do YA or MG, but a lot of ladies out there, do. I bet you’ll enjoy writing with them. Hang in there!

    1. Ry,
      Thank you for your insight and for sharing your experience. I can say that with the breakup of the group I feel as if a boyfriend broke up with me. “It’s not you its me,” Thank goodness I’m married. I know things happen for a reason, I am telling myself it must be time for me to grow as a writer.

      Thanks again for visiting and lets give a cheer to us late bloomers!

  7. When I read about those woman who juggle everything and appear to be succeeding, I have to admonish myself when I fall into the habit of comparison, longing, envy, disbelief, and annoyance! I mean, are they really, really doing all that or is it glorified BS? (For example, my resume looks pretty damn good, pretty varied and accomplished, but in reality I’ve worked my butt off and not ever managed to make enough of the Benjamins; financial struggle is a part of my 24/7—so, it’s the virtual vs reality check here.)

    When I can rein in my reactionary reactions, I do admire the achievements of these women. I look at how they operate on a daily basis and see if I could implement some of their habits, then give myself a break and remind myself that it’s okay to find my own path. I am honestly enjoying this path of mine that I’ve been on for the last year or so—inspired and motivated by the other artists I am working with. The coffers are still bone dry, but I’m hoping that if I can focus on the ride and that the payoff will come. (And, thankfully, the gas and cable company will let me slide a month every now and then.)

    All the best with this crazy writer’s ride. Hang in there!

    1. Kat is so right. It’s SO EASY to compare, and yet comparing just shoots ourselves in the foot because we don’t really KNOW the details and background of the accomplishments. A list of accomplishments and involvement in various organizations can be deceiving. There are MANY days I do not write at all. There are MANY days I am a lazy girl. Then I have bursts of productivity.

      And accomplishments like the trilogy I just sold to Harper began 7-8 years ago. The Healing Spell took me 8 years from my first official research trip to being on sale in bookstores.

      So folks with lots of things they’re doing are usually NOT doing them simultaneously. Maybe not even in the same year! LOL.

      And thank you for all the shout-outs and mentions and love, Holly. I’m so glad you have met you!

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