Without a doubt, I gave something up to become an author. No, I didn’t sell my soul. The Devil and Daniel Mouse made a dramatic impression upon me in my youth that watching Lucifer is the closest I’ll get to dalliances with the devil.
Rather, I gave modified the parts of my life that prevented me from working as hard as a successful author works.
Many years ago, I stumbled across a video lecture series on PBS by Dr. Wayne Dyer. He’s a motivational and spiritual speaker, determined to help people make better lives for themselves. Of course, he makes money from doing this too, but who doesn’t work for a fee now that Mother Theresa is dead?
Although I don’t remember every word of his seminar, one point stuck with me then as it does now.
Live the life you want.
If, he says, you think you should be paid like a top level athlete, then train like a top level athlete. Commit to the work and the work will commit to you.
Every professional says that being an author means working hard. There are copious hours of reading, and countless hours of creating, writing, editing outweigh the time waiting for inspiration, or a muse. In the demanding world of eBooks and free reads of every genre, authors also devote heaps of time to building platforms and gaining repertoire with their readers.
This is why, when I decided that I must elevate my creative talent, I made sacrifices, some simple, some difficult, but all of value.
Stepping away from the World of Warcraft MMOG was probably the easiest. With the best dungeons a lengthy time to complete, plus the farming or questing for gear, spells, and upgrades, I knew it had to be the first to face the chopping block. I kept it in the back of mind because I like the people with whom I gamed, some of whom I knew in person. I had a sense of satisfaction playing games as an adult that I never had as a child. We couldn’t afford a video game system, nor did I have an allowance I could waste in the Galaxian game built into the table top at the burger joint across the street from where my mother worked.
When I studied for my human biology degree, and later my nursing degree, I celebrated finals by renting a console and binge playing Alien or some other game that involved the slaughter of digital monsters. Warcraft helped me survive my bedrest restriction during my complicated pregnancy. I read more than I played, but I craved human contact – and there’s only so much daytime television I could watch before I felt like throwing out the T.V. altogether.
There are more programs related to writing, editing, and the production of manuscripts on my computer now than games. Although we have an older gaming console, I mostly play it with my son (he’s just discovered Minecraft).
More importantly, I cultivated the ability to step away from the escapist role playing, mine digging, and monster bashing of the virtual world. There’s nothing wrong with video games, but unless I’m being paid to write the narrative for them, I have to keep myself focused on my writing projects.
I miss out on a lot of pop culture television. By the time I watch Walking Dead, I, myself, might be a zombie. I watch less T.V. than many of my non-writer friends.
Going to the movies with my husband is the glue in our marriage so I can’t give that up entirely. O.K., so it’s not really, but it does give us date nights with decent frequency.
As shift workers, my husband and I already had a challenge regularly meeting up with our Monday to Friday pals. Social media helps, sure, but it doesn’t really compare to the spontaneity of a face-to-face gathering (plus or minus children who tear apart the house while adults are trying to have a civilized glass of wine).
Now, I’m not saying that I need to give up my friends in order to be successful – quite the opposite. Well-established friendships keep me level headed. But, in order to attend new conferences or network with writing-related professionals, I’ve declined a social engagement, or two… or three. That’s, I suppose, one of the disadvantages of restarting my creative direction later in life. My pre-existing companions have little or nothing to do with the world of publishing.
I gave up some bad writing habits like over use of parentheses, an over-dependency on alliteration, and the lazy use of passive tense.
Leisurely sleep-ins, are a rarity, as I wake up early to write, edit, or do other publishing related tasks.
One of the most important changes was one of the hardest. I gave self doubt the boot. I know I’m meant to create, write, and entertain. Every time I face a blank screen, I won’t let that annoying voice of worry gain entry to the page. It doesn’t matter if what I write at that moment is derivative or unique, falls flat or soars with potential. Each story yields a growing experience for me that is different from the one that came before.
Every failure is a stepping stone.
I love that I’m crafting stories, and networking, and connecting with readers. I started sending out free fiction to my newsletter subscribers on Friday and I get as much of a thrill from one of their emails as I do when someone thanks me at the hospital (sometimes more, to be honest). Discussing speculative fiction with other authors at conventions or in Skype chats refuels and excites me. To some extent, a small parcel of self-doubt keeps me honest: I won’t be an egoist if my self-opinion isn’t over-inflated. However, if I let negativity encroach on the relationships I’ve made, and the new direction I chose, then I may as well give up.
But I’m having way too much fun to do that.
If you’re a writer or author, or want to be one, where are you in your journey, and what’s holding you back?