Vision: A Resource for Writers
Holly Lisle's Vision
Walking The Double Path
By Justin Stanchfield
©2002, Justin Stanchfield
isn't for everyone.
Such a simple
statement, so innocent in appearance. Of course writing isn't for everyone, odd
as that may seem to those of us infected with the writing bug. Our friends and
families, even complete strangers may listen politely, nodding now and then as
we discuss the shadowy world of the writer, but they can never truly understand
it. They don't feel the same fires, are not consumed by the need to dwell within
the boundaries of our imaginations. Even the ones who say how much they would
like to write, that they have ‘this idea for a book,' can't understand what we
do. They don't fathom the highs and lows, are not compelled by the driving
forces behind our purpose. Wanting to be a writer and actually writing are not
the same thing. In fact, they are miles apart.
requires determination. And guts. And tenacity. It requires a hide like a
rhino's covering a heart open for all the world to see. And it requires time.
Time to write, to hone your craft,
and to lick your wounds when the manuscript comes back. Time to try again and
again and again until you finally climb the hundred walls each of us must scale
on our roads to being published. But time, sadly, is the one luxury most writers
seem never to have enough of, especially when you have to work an outside job.
nearly every writer's dream to one day support themselves from their writing--
to give up the grind of their day jobs and become a full-time author. The idea
of writing when you want, as much as you want, and the sheer freedom to pursue
your dreams on a daily basis, can be one of the strongest motivators any of us
will ever know. But what if you already enjoy your profession? What if your day
job is as much a part of your life as your writing? Must you give up one for the
other? Is it possible, after all, to serve two masters?
have two jobs, writing and ranching. (In fact, I have more than two. Sometimes I
take on so many part time jobs I feel like I've been roped arms and legs between
four bull elephants and am being stretched until I break.) Both jobs are
challenging, difficult, often maddening. Neither pays particularly well, and
both take their toll on me, mind, body and soul. But I wouldn't trade either.
Ask me which I would give up if I had to, my day job or my writing, and I can
only shrug. Which would I rather lose, my right eye or my left? Both are part of
who I am. They define me. My day job keeps my writing alive. My writing keeps my
day job from killing my soul. Yin and yang, black and white, either meaningless
without the other.
that isn't to say it's always easy.
key to maintaining both your job and your writing is the same for those who
write full time: self-discipline. Quitting your day job to become a writer is,
after all, no different from starting any business. A successful writer sits
down at his keyboard for a set amount of time every day, forcing himself to work
even when he would rather be doing something else. Being a writer is not a
license to do nothing. Writing requires commitment and it requires time, and you
damn well better give both if you expect to reach your dreams. Pick a time of
day as convenient as possible and then stick to your schedule. Write every day.
Make it as real a job to yourself as possible. Writing is hard work, and the
sooner you come to grips with that, the sooner you can convince yourself it is a
legitimate part of your life, and not simply a hobby or a pipe-dream. Whether
you write eight hours a day, or one hour stolen from your evening, treat it with
subject that needs to be approached from the start is how your writing time will
affect your family and friends. To a certain degree, a full-time writer will
have an easier time convincing their loved ones that they do indeed write for a
living, that it is their job whether it is lucrative or not. For writers who
choose to keep their day job, convincing others of the seriousness of their
writing can be an uphill battle. Many people, including spouses, partners and
parents, will (at best) falsely assume your writing is a trivial pastime, a
pleasant distraction or a momentary phase. Nip this in the bud! Let everyone
know you are serious about your craft, and more importantly, that your writing
time is your own. When you are working at your keyboard you are as off-limits to
other matters as if you were at your nine-to-five. Draw a line and stand behind
it. Serve notice: you don't "want to be" a writer. You are a writer.
there any benefits to working two jobs? Despite all the hassles, yes. For one
thing, a writer with an outside job doesn't suffer as much isolation as
full-time authors. Writing is a lonely business. We often spend more time with
imaginary people than we do with the flesh and blood variety. And the people you
do deal with -- editors, publishers, agents, even other writers -- you seldom
meet face-to-face. Writing requires a high degree of solitude, a willingness to
shut ourselves off from the flow of humanity while we work. The isolation can
lead to depression, even suicide. But those writers with outside jobs have an
automatic safety valve. They see new people everyday, have a chance to interact
in social situations and maintain a world-view away from the narrow, scattered
community of writers. This alone can enhance your fiction, giving you fresh
situations and a wider palette of characters. Another side effect of working two
jobs is that the hours spent away from your keyboard will make the time spent
actually writing more alluring. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and
sometimes, when the words refuse to flow, any edge you can find is a bonus. If
you are forcibly separated from your work-in-progress most of the day you will
often be all the more ready when, finally, you do sit down to it.
last caution: Of all the people who might discourage you from keeping your
outside job, sadly, you may find your fellow writers among them. Not all,
certainly, but some. A strong prejudice exists that unless you write full time
you are not a professional. Keeping a day job is seen as a safety blanket, an
excuse not to make the tough choices. Is it? I can't decide that for you.
Neither can anyone else. You, and you alone, have to make that decision when the
time comes, whether the pleasure and benefits you derive from your career are
worth the toll it may take on your writing. Follow your instincts. Trust
yourself. Whether you choose to eventually write full time or continue walking
the double path is up to you. But then, would you have it any other way?