It’s been a year and a half since I was surrounded by other professional writers, and boy do I miss it.
I mean, really, really miss it. Because, at the end of the day, they’re some of the only people who get what I’m trying to do. I mean, some may not get the parenting thing and many others have put those days of small kids, naptimes, and middle-of-the-night feedings long, long behind them… But still, when I hold out a book, one I wrote, designed, and published, they get it.
They get what went into such a simple looking thing, this book.
Before there was Eric, when Kate was only a year and a half, I went to my last (for now) Oregon Coast Workshop, put on by WMG Publishing. But, it was the big one. Six editors buying for Fiction River anthology magazines. Six chances to sell a story. (And even if the editors passed on your story, that was still six different opinions talking about your story.)
Oh, and about 50 professional writers talking business and craft morning, noon, and way, way late into the night.
For a whole week.
It was amazing. Energy was coming out everyone’s ears… and honestly, it was a bit much being both writer and mom at that point, especially with Kate in tow and missing her Momma (which is totally a post for another day).
But I remember that time, being around all those writers, and I’m holding it very, very close to my heart right now.
These days, I feel lucky to have enough time (and energy) to plop myself on the couch and watch an episode of Agents of Shield, or when I really have no energy and just need fluffy bunnies, Once Upon a Time. These days, when I barely make it upstairs before collapsing in bed.
A few weeks ago I mentioned how I missed feeding my writing… missed the practicing, the studying of other writers, the taking workshops. But what I really miss is just being around other people who get it.
People who get that progress moves at a snails-pace.
People who get that it takes time, focus, and practice to write a novel (and even more practice to write one that, you know, readers actually want to buy).
I miss the other writers, the other professionals, who understand that to publish a book takes effort. I miss those writers who get that to make my book look like it came straight out of New York is a whole new level of learning (because cool-looking covers don’t just come at a snap-of-your-fingers).
Instead of asking me, “So how’s the writing going?” They say, “I can’t believe how much you’re getting done!”
And those words of encouragement just warms me in ways they can never understand. They have no idea how much that distinction means to me.
And, yes, it’s a distinction.
I say all this because I’m still in the middle of a life roll, which was the birth of my son, where I’m getting a snails-amount of writing done. And that’s totally fine. I knew it would happen when I decided to be a parent not once, but twice. I also knew, without a doubt, that I’d be writing.
Maybe not a lot, but some.
And you know what? I am.
Other professional writers who know me, who know my work ethic and goals, have no doubt I’ll get back on the writing career-horse when I can. But because they understand what life rolls do to the writing process, they cheer me on when I hit these little successes, like turning in six stories for the anthology magazine in six weeks.
All that writer support is awesome, but it’s unfortunately not the kind I’m surrounded with day-to-day.
Instead, I get asked the question, “So how’s the writing coming?”
Which sounds pretty innocent. And sometimes, it is. Sometimes that person truly just wants to hear what I’ve gotten done, even those days where no writing happened. Those same people are often amazed I found any time in front of the computer to begin with (they’re generally parents of young kids also).
And for those people, I do like to share. I like to tell them what I’ve accomplished – or often times – what I haven’t.
But then there’s another group when they ask, “How’s the writing?” they’re not actually being sincere.
I mean, they might think they are, but they’re not.
Not when I feel the judgment dripping off them when I respond, “Well, not much this week. I’ve barely gotten a solid four hours of sleep and my creative-brain is shot.”
Their ‘innocent’ question makes me feel like I’m not a professional, like what I’m doing is this so-so thing that’s unimportant.
And this judgment? Yeah, I almost always get from a hobby-writer who want to make a ton of money off their one book, or even someone who knows just enough about writing and books to have an opinion, but don’t actually care to know all the hard work I’ve put in over the years.
These people make me feel less because I’m a parent and a writer. That because I’m writing so little that I’m clearly not a professional writer.
At least, not to them.
And okay, maybe they don’t actually mean that, but it feels that way to me. I mean, when they compare their little side project to all the hard work, patience, practice, and money, I’ve put into my writing for over a decade now, how it can not feel like they’re belittling my work? That what they’re doing is exactly the same as me?
Those conversations infuriate me. Both that they can make me this feel this way, and also because there’s nothing I can do about it.
I mean, I’ve got a pretty close eye on my critical voice these days and on when/if I can even write. And, I’m not saying that it hasn’t taken advantage of my exhausted, crazy-tired state and convinced me to not write at times… but you know, I’m doing my best.
My best to write.
To write, and still have fun.
I do what I can, when I can. And I’m proud of it; proud of what I’ve accomplished.
But my life, my goal to be an amazing parent and supportive mom but also to somehow pursue being a professional writer… it means I can’t produce more stories.
Not now, anyway.
Honestly, what I should do is stop being so damn polite to those people and tell them exactly how I feel and where they can go stuff themselves and their opinions….
But, I am polite person and being assertive is one of my own personal work-in-progresses. And truly, I’ve got enough dealing with family and haven’t the time or energy to take on these hobby-writers and friends with opinions.
Which takes me back to the beginning of this blog post… I truly love to talk about writing. And publishing. And learning. I mean, I get tons of energy just from sharing this writing thing I love so much, and wow, having a conversation and connecting with someone above the age of three??
Seriously. I’m all in.
But, it’s clearly not a conversation I can have with just anyone (as I learned a few weeks ago, and which spurred this whole topic).
I now know that I must protect my writing, especially the sloooow progress I make these days. Protect, and defend it.
Still working out the logistics of that one, but I will. Through trial-and-error, most likely. (Huh. Kind of like being a parent.)
For now though, while I figure this out, I’m going to save the writing talks and trials of being a parent-writer with people who get it. Or even just people who are supportive and cheer me on.
Writing isn’t hard work. Actually, making stories up and seeing characters literally jump out your fingertips is pretty amazing. And fun.
What’s hard is the dedication, patience, practice.
What’s even harder is when you’ve got kids who, not kidding, have a sixth sense for when I’m trying to write. Who don’t care that it’s my half-hour of writing time and Daddy’s on kid-duty.
So, really, the last thing I need is someone else’s opinion or judgment mucking things up.
I’ve got a hard enough job figuring this out.
And when those people dismiss me, dismiss my writing, dismiss the effort my whole family has done to provide me the time to write, I’m going to remember what all those professional writers told me….
“I can’t believe how much you’ve done.”
And they’re right.
Because, seriously, I think I’m doing a fine-ass job of it. Four hours of broken sleep, a teething baby, a three-year-old who’s a late-talker, and somehow I finished a short story I started three months ago (it’s also, no longer short).
I call that success. Maybe not by others’ standards, but by mine. I might not be producing a novel a month, but I’m writing.
And honestly, that’s all that matters.
That, and seeing how quickly my kids are growing up… and enjoying every moment of it. (Well, enjoying it most of the time… I’m still in desperate need of a good, good night’s sleep. Not to mention the Crawling Phase has Begun and all things small-and-tiny must be off the ground… which isn’t a concept my three-year-old understands. In fact, it’s the opposite.)