Saturday, September 25, 2010

Running the Red Queen's Race

As of about 11 pm yesterday, I finally felt caught up from last weekend's trip to see my family. In other words, a slightly less than four day trip had a slightly more than four day recovery time. Not that I regret the visit. It was my Mom's birthday, and this has been the first year since I was in high school that I was actually close enough geographically to make going home for a family birthday a possibility. My sister, who lives in Texas, flew out to New Hampshire as well. Between distance and work obligations, this was the first time in years I'd seen my sister. Liz is my best friend.

John Scalzi recently posted a great piece on finding the time for writing. Find the time to write, or don't. Don't say you're a writer, and then when asked about your progress say "yes, but," and follow that with some excuse about how you have a really hard job, or family obligations, or, you know, a life, man. Most - probably the vast majority - of writers have day jobs (sometimes called "cash jobs." The job that allows us to pay our rent and feed ourselves and, if we're lucky, give us some form of health insurance.) I know writers with multiple published series and writers who have been on the NYT best seller list who still have day jobs. I feel incredibly lucky that my day job allows me to do most of my work from home, on a flexible schedule, and dovetails well with my writing job.

And writers, we have lives, too. We get sick, or have to take care of sick family members. Our relationships end, or we fall in love. We move to new places. We have bad days. We have friends we want to hang out with, concerts we want to hear, events we want to attend. I'm pretty good at knowing when I can't do fun because I need to write. I'm grateful, perhaps more than I can articulate, to my friends who have put up with me canceling plans because either I didn't make word count that day, or because the writing was going so well I couldn't set it aside.

The place where I am not good at protecting my work is when I am home with family. This isn't because my family doesn't support my decision to write, or my goal of someday being able to write full time. It's because I haven't yet figured out how to say no to them while I'm there. And I need to, because writing is a job, and it's not one that comes with built in vacation days.


  1. I know exactly what you mean! Family knocks the word 'no' right out of my vocabulary, too. Every now and then, that makes me feel incredibly resentful (my family lives pretty much within a 2-state radius, so it's a lot easier for them to reel me in), so I suppose I need to learn to stick up for myself better. :(

  2. I think a couple of vacation days are okay...I definitely can't wait to get back to writing after a couple of days in Berlin (where Niels rant he marathon and I met friends and did not write). But I know the feeling of wanting to write, but feeling guilty about removing myself from my environment, i.e. the emotional needs of the spouse. ;-). Because let's face it, when I'm writing I might as well not be in the room. I find it's helpful to have a separate space for writing. This somehow gives me the permission to "disappear."

    It's tough, though, if you don;t see your family that often. I don't think I'd be able to write during such visits.

  3. The thing that I'm really struggling with is, at least right now, where I'm teaching full time and writing full time, I'm crap at taking vacation days. I'm working on three book-length projects, one largish Secret Project, and whatever short stories rattle about in my brain, plus course prep for two upper division Lit courses. Not getting work done, especially when the writing is cooperating, makes me really unpleasant to be around, which is not helpful when it comes to family visits.

    I know I'll figure out something, I just wish I could balance things better, you know?