My Life as a PTPW: Making words while the sun shines

I love the idea of a perfect little writing nook, filled with flowers and afternoon tea. Or the cozy library with the roaring fireplace and shelves filled with leather bound books. Instead I’m balancing a laptop on my lap while drinking instant cocoa hoping I can get another 500 words in before the washer dings.

As I sit typing this, I have a Roomba running around my feet knocking into chairs. A bread machine with a loose something in it is noisily making dough for dinner rolls. The oven is steam cleaning. I’m contemplating if its worth getting the fall decorations (that I meant to put out in September) out for two weeks or just wait for Christmas. And my boyfriend is outside trying to chop up a tree we chopped down last week after it died. This is after a morning where I made breakfast, got to see a local falconry club at a presentation talk about their birds, and I got a driving lesson in using a manual transmission.

As a Part-Time Professional Writer (PTPW), things have changed so much since before I published my book. When I was an amateur, the only deadline I had was “to get the book done”. No one but me cared if I got any writing done, or reached a goal. Now I have a weekly blog, weekly short story episodes I want to start releasing, watching out for events, answering emails, working on social media…plus writing my new book! All this while balancing a household, a full-time day job, maintaining a relationship with my boyfriend and still finding time to have fun and enjoy my other hobbies.

No, I’m not perfect. Yesterday I was mess. I sucked, my writing sucked, what in the world was I thinking. I’m horrible at my job, dinner was a mess. I ended up curled up on the couch with a glass of wine and my favorite pink salt caramel chocolate bar, drowning my sadness for four hours in mind-numbing television. But today I got up and went at it again.

Finding time to write in the chaos between my emotional states, chores, relationship and life isn’t always easy. Sometimes its just going “NO, I know that needs to be done but I’m going to write now.” Or just finding a spare moment and typing a paragraph here, a paragraph there, and being okay with that. It’s not the preferred way, but its sometimes the way my writing life has to be if I’m going to get any writing done at all.

A lot of times I find myself writing at the end of the day when we’re chilling on the couch watching TV. I also answer emails, search for new marketing opportunities, do research, work on my book covers or advertisements or whatever I find I need to do. It’s been really interesting as my boyfriend, a self-described non-reader, gets interested in my work. He’s always asking what I’m doing, what I’m working on. It’s been a really great way to bring him into my passion and let him see me working.

It also helps me unwind at the end of the day because at the end of the day, this is my passion. I have always used writing as a stress release. And getting to end my day diving into my worlds, fleshing my characters out, building the movie in my mind and figuring out how to transplant it to the page in a way that will transport my readers, takes me out of the adulting worries and into that realm of imagination where I lived as a child.

However, we’ve all seen the memes making fun of how fond of writers are of procrastinating. I’d love to deny it, but it’s true. Writing my first book was hard in itself. My dream to publish a book was almost thirty years in the making. I can’t guess how many unfinished books I’ve written since I was a kid. Probably more than forty. I’d have a really great idea, start writing the outline or get a few chapters in, then get caught up in another story and never get back to it. I think why I really abandoned them was because at that point in my life I thought I was a failure, worthless, horrible. Who would want to read anything written by someone like that?

I think part of my switch from amateur to professional was realizing that nothing was going to perfect, and that I wasn’t this worthless failure the world and my anxiety had led me to believe I was. There was never going to be a perfect time to write. There was never going to be a perfect book. There were always going to be people that hated it. Even now, I realize that it is going to be a long haul as a self-publisher to get my book in front of people’s eyes. It will be a lot of online hours. A lot of spending weekends in gymnasiums and auditoriums at fairs and comic cons. It will be a sacrifice to get the numbers that I want. But just like writing a little bit here or there eventually got me a book, I know doing a little bit here and there will add up to great gains in the end.

One of these days I might make it to were I can be a full-time writer with a dedicated writing area and dedicated writing time. But for right now, the name of the game is creating balance out of chaos and grabbing the time to write when I can.

It may not be what people want to hear from a professional writer, but that’s my truth right now. But it doesn’t mean that I will always be like this. And that’s the great thing about this time. Everything is new, everything is a lesson, and as I grow and learn I will gain knowledge and wisdom, and things will get easier.

If you are a writer and struggle with writing because you can’t set time to write consistently or you can’t spend the effort other people seem to have. You can’t follow the expert advice. My advice? Stop googling “how to write a book” and comparing yourself to whatever it says. Just write the book! Write a sentence. Write a paragraph. Write a short story. Write a chapter. Do it enough, for long enough, and you’ll eventually have a book.

Even if you feel you can’t write a book, still write. Find writing prompts online and practice writing a short story a day. Sitting down to watch TV? Write something. Have a few moments in the morning? Write something. Woke up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep? Write something.

As an amateur evolving into a PTPW, it’s hard to find the time in the chaos. You have your ‘normal life’: the job to pay the bills, friends, family, chores, and other responsibilities. But you also have your passion. And if writing is your passion, it doesn’t matter if you spend five minutes a day or 5 hours. Any amount of time writing will get you closer to not only understanding more about who you are as a writer and help improve your writing, but it just might get you that step closer to realizing your dream.

Take this blog. It took me two days to write this, although it probably takes you ten minutes to read it. I started it in the afternoon one day, got caught up in chores, had a friend stop by and they stayed for dinner and stayed up way too late having fun. Now I’m finishing this off the next night, sitting curled up on my couch in my favorite cat pajamas, watching Chopped and drinking hibiscus tea. But if I hadn’t written this last paragraph, you wouldn’t have known that. You would have thought I just sat down, ripped this out and BAM! Here you go.

But I didn’t. Because that’s not my life. And I want to share that with you so it helps you grow on your writing journey. Because I think that we read things by professionals and well-known authors and compare our lives to theirs. I know for me, I thought I could never be a professional writer because I couldn’t dedicate the time or effort that all the advice columns said I needed to.

I found out that if I’m going to be a professional writer, I have to find the time to write when I can and not bemoan having to stop for chaos and life. Like right now, I thought I could finish this. But now my boyfriend’s asking when dinner is so I have to put this down and go reheat some lasagna I made yesterday. Course, now that he said it my stomach is growling too. Hold on.

Okay, I’m back. See what I mean about chaos?

The fact of the matter is that humans, even the ones who say they crave spontaneity, love having a world that doesn’t change. We like knowing what’s going to happen. We like knowing that we can schedule our days, schedule our lives.

But the problem is that life is chaos. Life is not a plan. Life is water, wind, fire. Even the earth, the immovable earth under our feet and towering mountains overhead, moves and shakes.

And yet we live our lives and teach our children that it doesn’t. We teach them to plan. We teach them that things should be static. Instead of teaching that life is chaos. Plans change. Things change. If you’re taught that the ground is always going to be stable, you have no idea how to handle it when it isn’t.

I was always taught that life was a plan. Get good grades. Get into college. Get a degree. Get a good job. Get your house with the white picket fence and the 2.5 kids and a dog. Well, I got the good grades. I bombed college because I was drowning in my undiagnosed anxiety and depression, putting more and more pressure on myself to ‘be normal’ because I was so broken. Still got the good job. Got the house. Didn’t want kids but still got the dog.

You know what?

The job turned toxic. I was upside-down on a house I couldn’t afford to take care. I couldn’t get another job because everyone just saw me as a minimum-wage secretary. I was drowning in my mental illness, spiraling down to depths that were like sitting at the bottom of a whirlpool looking up at the light and knowing that however much I struggled, I’d never get up there. I was depressed. I was suicidal. And nothing I did fixed it and got my ‘plan’ back on track. All the time thinking what a failure I was.

But I wasn’t a failure. I just didn’t know how to flow with life.

If you ever want to see an example of flowing, watch a school of fish. How they dance and move and change at a moment’s notice. They can evade enemies, move with currents, avoid each other and dance. If only we can learn to move like that.

My flow got so much better when I started to understand that I had to stop carrying the baggage of the world. The expectations and goals of other people. Other people’s opinions. I had to stop living a life for other people, or the plan I thought I had to have to be ‘happy’. So, I started deep-cleaning my life. I moved across the country, throwing out and donating everything that didn’t fit in a U-haul trailer and the back of my truck. During the drive, I evaluated my life. I realized that I had lived too much of my life not seeing that I was worth fighting for. That my dreams, my passions, my mental health were worth fighting for. And I wasn’t wrong for fighting for them. I also realized that just because my life doesn’t go to ‘plan’, it’s not bad. In fact, its awesome. Because all those twists and turns are just experience for the novels that I write. I mean, who wants to read a book already knowing exactly what’s going to happen? Hardly anyone I know. The point is to be surprised. That’s the same point of life. To be surprised and grow from new experiences and challenges.

Once I had that mindset, learning to flow with life became a lot easier, and life became more fun.

You can still find happiness and passion and fulfillment even in the chaos. You just have to learn to move like the wind and water. Something gets in their way, they move around it. Or push it over. Or whatever they need to do. And they keep flowing on. Find joy in the simple things. And understand that whatever bad flows your way, the good will one day flow with it as well.

Find your moments in the chaos. Use it to hone your writing. Embrace it, instead of letting it be a roadblock. If writing is your passion and you have a dream, don’t let chaos stop you. Instead, harness it to make it work for you.

One response to “My Life as a PTPW: Making words while the sun shines”

  1. Very well said. I keep forgetting that I can do a little writing at a time. I don’t need all 1000 words each time I sit down. Also it doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s the hardest part for me. I know it’s a draft, but it’s hard to get past the wanting it to be perfect part. Thanks for the reminders and the encouragement.

    Liked by 1 person

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