“Writing a novel is like making love, but it’s also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s like making love while having a tooth pulled.” Dean Koontz
Nothing exceptional ever got completed without sacrifice. Books can change the world and the people who write them deserve a medal – because it’s just hard.
It’s comforting to know that even the most gifted authors of our time had poured blood, sweat and tears into their masterpieces.
Then broke and single mom, J.K. Rowling, wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in coffee shops while her baby girl slept. From beginning to end, it took five years. She typed it on an old manual typewriter, which required her to re-type any page in which she made changes. Once it was finished, she had to re-type the entire manuscript, because she realized that it needed to be double spaced! After twelve rejections from publishers, she finally got her book accepted through Bloomsbury, a small publishing house in London. And the rest is history – she is now the twelfth wealthiest woman in England, thanks to her Harry Potter Series of books.
My alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. this morning. I want to finish the non-fiction book I’m writing for artists, and waking up before the rest of the world is the way. I have to be at the office by 9:00, and in between get my son off to school. Besides weekends, the crack between darkness and dawn is my only time to write, and if I oversleep, I’ve missed my window of opportunity.
There are many stories about authors who wrote books in the 20 minutes before going to work in the morning, or in the late hours of the night while their families slept. These are the success stories that inspire me to keep going – if they could do it, then so can I.
Harsh sacrifices are required to write a book. Just last week I had a nervous breakdown when my husband dared to suggest that we have fun camping in the Anza Borrego Desert for the weekend.
“But I was planning to work on my book!” I complained. I was already frustrated at how far behind I was on the progress. Just thinking about it makes my chest constrict. If I don’t get this book finished, I’ll hate myself. I’ll feel like a quitter, a failure.
And at the same time, it is just so hard to make the time to get the work done. I run a business full-time, I’m a mom and I like to exercise. Writing a book means a lot of important stuff has to give. And all of it is important.
My husband was a little irritated with me. “But you need a break. We should do something adventurous this weekend.” He likes to do fun things and he manages to always make time for it. He’s tired of me holing myself up in the house writing every weekend, and I don’t blame him.
I started to well up with tears, something I do when I feel helpless. I wonder if I’m being a bad mom and a boring wife. But I don’t want to be a failure! I’m stuck in between the driving desire to create something great and the maternal need to spend time with my kid before he grows up.
And that is the dilemma that every writer faces. You just can’t do it all. Something has to give.
Since I started this project eight months ago, I hardly cook anymore and the house is never cleaned unless my darling husband does it. I snap at my son if he dares to ask me a question while I’m writing. And then I feel horribly guilty.
Writing a book has many overwhelming requirements:
- You need to invest large chunks of time, consistently, sometimes for years
- You have to practice extreme focus and commitment
- Organization and Efficiency is necessary
- You’ll sacrifice time with family and friends, and your family may resent you for it
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. And the “hard” is why it’s such a big deal to pull it off.
I keep thinking about the line of Jimmy Dugan in the movie A League of Their Own, where he’s telling the top player in the league why she shouldn’t quit:
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great. “
I feel that my book is very important and can help a lot of artists. I also see it as another stream of income, you know, where I can actually get paid for my writing!
Eight months ago I started the outline for this guidebook for creative people that will show them how to actually make money doing what they love. It was pouring out of me in the beginning. And then life got in the way…
My in-laws came for a visit which was distracting enough for me to put the book down for two weeks. And then, just when I was hitting my writing stride again, we took a three week trip across country. I lost all momentum for a few months after that.
When I saw that I wasn’t getting as far with my book as I’d like, I hired a writing coach to help move things along. Katie has been helpful in keeping me on track, and sobering. She taught me that if you plan to get your book published, before you even finish writing it you need to get your proposal nailed down.
The book proposal is more work than the actual book itself. That’s because a proposal requires you to follow guidelines and do research and actually read competing books. In short, you have to do a lot of things you don’t really feel like doing. But they are necessary.
Seth Godin has written twelve books since 1999. He must have a housekeeper and I wonder if he has any children… I know one thing he does have: the ability to focus on a project and get it done. I envy that gift.
My hubby convinced me to go to the Desert this weekend after all. I didn’t bring any writing materials and we had a great adventure seeing sculptures in the Desert, visiting the dead fish on the shores of the Salton Sea and seeing the once-a-year wildflowers on the cacti in the blooming desert! Yes, this is our idea of a good time.
On the drive home, I was feeling peaceful but mentioned that I’m still trying to figure out how to write this book while juggling all of my other commitments.
And he’s right. I’m not scared of a little hard work. I’m more excited at the thought of getting this idea into written form. And that’s just what I’ll do. Every morning at 5:00 a.m.!