Maria Brophy


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business of art / Creativity / Motivation

Being Exceptional is a Sacrifice – Writing that Book is Hard

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Anza Borrego Desert in Bloom

Anza Borrego Desert in Bloom

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.

Sculptures in the Desert

Sculptures in the Desert

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.

My husband leaned over and lovingly patted my hand.  He reassured me that I’m going to get it done, and reminded me of this simple truth, You aren’t doing anything wrong.  It’s just hard.”

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.!

Maria xxoo


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12 Comments Being Exceptional is a Sacrifice – Writing that Book is Hard

  1. Lori Woodward

    Maria, I’m so glad you did go to the desert with your family.

    It does appear that you are indeed going to get your book finished – you are working on it regularly. Your lack of being able to work on the house proves that 😉

    I too am working on a book and not making as much progress as you – and I have no children! The reason why I mentioned that your going away is a good thing: our minds need to rest in between our working hours so that our best ideas rise to the surface of our brains.

    Thanks for sharing that story about j.k. Rowling – wasn’t aware of that.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Lori, thank you for your comment! Yes, a messy house is the sign of a productive woman. (That’s what I keep telling myself!) I wish you great success with your book. And though you aren’t making the progress you’d like to, you are making progress. I can’t wait for you to finish your book – I enjoy your blog posts so much I’m sure I’ll love your book even more.

  2. Katey Coffing

    What a smart husband you have!

    I’m glad you got away. Yes, writing a book is a difficult (and looong) process and you must make time for it. But it’s also important to live at least a little while you’re writing. If you transform into a cave-troll, your book will probably suffer. (I doubt trolls are all that good at typing.) 😉


  3. Jeff Dolan

    I have found that God gave Type A’s spouses for a reason – to prevent us from running ourselves into the ground. You are wise to listen to your husband about the trip.

    Cheers to your BOOK! WOW!

  4. Miranda

    I think, too, that many women put a lot of pressure on themselves to do everything, especially when it comes to family and the house. No matter what they are accomplishing and working towards in their professional lives, women are made to feel like failures if the house isn’t tidy. I often wonder if men feel the same pressure…

    I’ve given up feeling guilty when my house isn’t spotless and when I don’t cook a homemade meal from scratch. I can’t do it all and the things I am doing mean more to me than what others think of the way I live. My house is a mess and I make no apologies for it!

    I admire women like you, Maria, who are able to do it all and have a family. I don’t have kids and still feel like there’s never enough time!

    It’s definitely important to take breaks, and you’re lucky to have such a supportive husband!

  5. Archan Mehta

    Ave Maria! Hail to the chief, Maria! Way to go, Maria!

    “The lives of great men
    All remind us
    We too can make
    Our lives sublime
    And, thus departing,
    Leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time.
    The lives of great men
    Reached and kept
    Were not attained by sudden flight
    But they, while their companions slept,
    Were toiling upwards into the night.”

    By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet.

    Kindred spirit, Ave Maria–the great one–remember these lines from one of my favorite poets whenever you feel low on energy or the chips are down. It will perk you up and enable you to keep on plugging away at your assignments and projects, no matter what the cost.

    For me, waking up at 5 a.m. is a pipe dream–and something I can only see through a haze of smoke (thanks to my beloved M-plant.)

    Even if you have to sacrifice, in the end the sacrifice will be worth it.
    We look forward to reading your works in the near future. And I will be rooting for you even if I find myself in an altered state of consciousness. Sorry, but I have a wicked sense of humor. Cheers!

  6. deni

    i hear you about worrying over losing that window of opportunity. that really burdens my thoughts a lot, too. it’s funny you write about it being hard, because you make it look so easy! 😀 just remember there’s no pressure about the time of this book. what you have to say would be valuable 10 years from now, as today. i know you want to see it finished though, just anxious to have it done. maybe use a voice recorder and just free flow talk into it as your driving, sitting around, whatever. then you can go back through and transcribe or edit when you have a more concentrated “wrtiting” time period. i don’t know you, but you just seem like someone who talks a lot or is used to expressing themselves vocally. hug

    1. deni

      oh i forgot to add, what made me think of the vocal thing is because i heard your podcast with john t unger and really enjoyed it! thank you so much for doing that.

  7. Sari

    I gotta be honest, the desert stuff is what kept me interested…Here’s my take…Incorporate those weekends into your book…Those weekends differentiate you from the other people also trying to write books for artists…I want to learn from someone who is fun, someone who is doing things I’d like to do…I love seeing pictures of cacti & sculptures…I say, go on all the wacky weekends with husband & son, then come home & write about them…It makes the book personal & specific…Plus, maybe some of the places you mention will help you sell copies when it is published…(Throw in some metaphorical chapter headers to tie your weekend into a lesson- like art dealers are like cactuses, prickly on the outside, but…)

  8. Maria Brophy

    Katey and Jeff: Yes, my hubby is quite brilliant. That’s why I married him!

    Miranda: Sounds like you and I are in the same boat. Let that housework go, and do more important things. Yah!

    Archan: Thanks for the cheers, and I love your wicked sense of humor!

    Deni: Funny how you say I make it look easy. I’ve always thought that of others that seem to be doing things so well (like motherhood – other moms seem to have it so together….but they fret just like I do) – and people like Seth Godin who has written a dozen books. I’m sure it’s not easy for him…but he makes it look that way. PS: Thanks for listening to my Art Heroes Radio interview!

    Sari: I love that you love the desert stuff. I’m going to take your advice and try to use more of these personal experiences in my writing. And the metaphorical references are a great idea – it might take some practice on my end. I’m trying to move from being a technical writer to more of a flowery, unique, interesting one. Most of my writing background has been marketing copy, contracts and really boring stuff!

    I hope you all know how much your feedback and comments mean to me, and probably to others who read this as well. Thank you for taking the time.

  9. Sue Allemand

    Hmmm Maria — maybe your post is a lesson in itself! As an artist – one of the things that I’ve learned that has helped my business the most IS to take time to enjoy myself! Don’t force IT! Don’t plug away at something – like it’s drudgery – or you will never be happy with the outcome! You – as a writer…like your husband – as an artist, are creative-minded people who need to “see” the world in order to interpret it through your special art! If you have no time to “see” and “appreciate” your life and surroundings – the art cannot be good!

    Art that I was FORCED to do by editors, publishers, printers – etc… was never as good or as fulfilling as the art I WANTED to do — that just came out – no force involved! I could sit for hours and paint things that I enjoyed — if I was forced to do it, it took FOREVER!!!

    So – I would think that a Guidebook for Artists – should include the point of making time for yourself and your family – to recharge, reinspire, reinvigorate…. don’t you?? I think your trip to the desert just gave you another chapter for that book! The book will be done, when it SHOULD be done…and not a minute sooner! And it WILL be a success — and enjoyed by all who read it! And you WILL be happy and proud of it! 🙂 The universe will make sure of that! Think positive girl – and enjoy your life!! That’s the point after all!

  10. Paul Frazier

    I once purposely got myself placed in the mental health ward so that I could write about it accurately in my new book. Commitment is required to write well, and I mean a LOT of commitment. (Pun intended.) ^_^


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