This post was supposed to go live yesterday, so my apologies for the delay. And many thanks to the wonderful Fran Wilde for writing such a wonderful and personal guest post.
Is there anything I would give up writing for?
At this point in my life, absolutely nothing can stop me from writing. I’ve found a good working pace, and have enough support from family that I can tour in promotion of a new book like Updraft, work on the next book (or two), teach at workshops, be a guest at conventions, and all the rest of the things that go with a writing career.
I also have some freelance clients that help support my writing costs.
But a few years ago, “nothing can stop me from writing” was not my answer.
A few years ago, I was just starting out, and money was really tight. My spouse and I were newly married, and my spouse needed to go back to school. I’d already completed an MFA in poetry, was working on a Masters’ in Information Architecture and Interaction Design, had several large freelance jobs lined up, and was settling down to work on a manuscript when we realized that, in order for my spouse to return to school, I would need to work full time, or more than full time. I ended up taking on additional freelance programming and writing gigs, a full-time job, and two teaching positions at local universities. That’s a lot of hours.
To make room for it all, I set the manuscript aside for the time being, and my spouse and I made a deal that I’d come back to it when my spouse graduated.
Yup. I know how that sounds. If you’d told college-me or high-school me I’d be doing that, I would have been horrified. The risks of setting aside a career to help someone else’s career and establish a family at the same time are enormous, and my dream career lagged in the meantime.
But looking back now, it was a good decision. We were able to give ourselves a little bit of financial stability, I gained a ton of new skills that paid well, and when my spouse graduated, the job opportunities added to that. It was not always perfect, and certainly when the economy got rough things were difficult, but we patchworked our way through.
I did it because had no illusions that writing was a guaranteed path to fame and riches.
Those were the good reasons why I set my writing aside.
The bad reasons why I set writing aside were something else entirely — and those almost kept me from picking my writing back up again.
Bad reason number one was that I didn’t value my writing nearly enough. I felt that because it didn’t make any money, it wasn’t worth anything.
Bad reason number two was that I felt that I needed to put others (family, students, friends) first. I figured I’d get around to my writing after all the other things were done.
And bad reason number three was that I didn’t believe in myself.
Boy was I wrong about those reasons. They were terrible, and they kept me from writing, submitting, and writing more.
When I finally discovered that my writing was worth something, even if it didn’t make a ton of money, that if I didn’t put my writing first, no one else would, and that I needed to believe in myself before others would.
That’s when I was able to pick up my writing again, and stick with it, after giving it up for a long time.
I did that by going to writers’ workshops, finding a community of working writers, and listening — or trying to — when someone complimented my work. I began to get stable ground beneath my feet in a new way. And that was vitally important to picking up my writing again and getting rid of the bad reasons for not writing.
The focus I was able to give to Updraft, and the books and short stories before and after it, happened solely because I ditched those bad reasons. I’m glad I did.
Things may change again — a writing career is nothing if not fluid — but I’m glad I’ve taken the path I have, and especially glad I’ve learned the lessons I have. Because now? Absolutely nothing can stop me from writing, every day.
Fran Wilde’s first novel, Updraft, debuted from Tor Books on September 1, 2015. Her short stories have appeared at Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, and in Asimov’s and Nature. Fran also interviews authors about food in fiction at Cooking the Books, and blogs for GeekMom and SFSignal. You can find Fran at her website, Twitter, and Facebook.