When Authors Do Too Much

Something my fellow Fierce Romance author Natasha Moore said to me over the summer sparked this blog. She told me she felt guilty about not writing while she was on vacation. It’s a comment that was backed up recently by author (and ex-agent) Nathan Bransford in a blog he titled: When It Feels Like You’re Never Doing Enough.

Writers are the only people I know of who feel guilty about taking a day off. Most people love time away from their job, but for us writers, there’s always a nagging feeling lurking in the back of our minds that “I could be writing right now,” or worse, “I should be writing right now.”

There have been weekends when I’ve sent my husband off to the movies by himself just so I could spend those two hours working on my current WIP.  There are nights when I skip sitting beside him on the couch watching Hawaii 5-0 and instead sit in front of the computer (and believe me, it’s damned difficult to give up an hour looking at gorgeous Alex O’Loughlin)!

So how much is too much? How do you find balance between a writer’s life and real life? 

I suppose it would be easier if writers could sit at their computer and just turn on a switch to fire up their Muse. If I could work a solid eight hours and get lots of pages written, I wouldn’t feel so guilty about quitting at six o’clock, just like I do at my day job. Maybe it’s because I’m a pantser rather than a plotter that being consistently productive is so uncertain for me. But really, I believe the Muse is a fickle friend. She can’t be told what to do (or when). So when a writer is ‘in the zone,’ it’s a beautiful thing and she is not to be disturbed!

Trouble is, that zone could come at any time, so we have to be ready for it 24/7. Which means family sometimes takes a back seat. Which can make for guilt all around. Guilt that you’re neglecting your most important personal relationships if you write, or guilt that you’re neglecting the creative force that drives us to write if you don’t.

So… How do YOU handle the demands of being a writer?



Natasha Moore said...

Ha! Guess I'm not the best one to answer that question.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that writing isn't the same as other jobs. You can't shut it off when you're not doing it. And when it's going well you hate to lose that momentum.

I'm still working on finding that balance. Hubby will complain if I write on the weekends but sometimes he's not home...

Carol Ericson said...

Jenna, I've been getting so much better about this. My kids are always my top priority and I never feel guilty for spending time with them or going to their games, but I would always feel a little concern if my writing for the day wasn't done and I was at a water polo tournament all day. So, I try to carve out about an hour each day to write and I'm there even if my muse isn't! I also have a day job, so I'll write at lunch, and sometimes at night I'll escape the homework and the school meetings to go to Starbuck's and write for an hour and sometimes I bring my AlphaSmart with me to the kids' tournaments and I'll write in the car between games. The key for me is getting the writing done for the day and then I don't feel guilty about anything!

Martha O’Sullivan said...

Hi Jenna,
I couldn't agree more (about your post and Alex O'Louhghlin)! I'm new to all of this as the first book of my trilogy was released on September 1. When I started writing about five years ago my children were younger and I would stay up until all hours, especially when my husband traveled. I wanted to be writing all the time and if I wasn't, I was writing in my head! But after a while, I became like the walking dead and found myself being short during the day. Mommy guilt.
I'm fortunate enough to still be home and committed myself to writing during school hours. That meant letting go of other things and tightening my focus to family and writing, something not everyone can do.
And reminding myself of that frequently.
But that came with a cost. I passed up many girls nights out among other things, opportunities to see extended family, even a part-time job.
The last few years have been difficult for us due to the recession's affect on my husband's business, the teenage years and my father's death. But in retrospect, it was the writing that got me through those things. So for all that I had to forego, the writing more than returned the favor.

Thanks for a great post.
Martha O'Sullivan

Jenna Ives said...

Natasha/Carol/Martha -
It's reassuring to know we all go through this life/work struggle.

Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. It always amazes me how writers support each other!


Kathy Bennett said...

I think there is a lot of pressure for writers to produce, produce, and produce. I'm not sure when it started, but writers are constantly told, "Your best promotional tool is your next good book." So, we work to produce the next good book.

I know there are writers out there who are regularly writing 5000 words each day...and striving for more! I stand amazed as I see them posting on Facebook about the fun things they're doing while I feel tied to my desk.

It wouldn't surprise me if we see some of the multi-producer writers in the future suffering from burnout.

None-the-less, I'd still be pretty darn happy to regularly write 5000 words a day.