Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Counting The Cost of Writing

Best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel loves to come alongside writers and help them craft their novel. She's the Book Therapist for My Book Therapy and sits on ACFW's Executive Board.

Otherwise, she lives in Florida, where she is also a worship leader, with her husband and dog.

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We spend a lot of time here and in the writing industry talking about craft, networking, marketing, promoting, and the general way to write a book. Panster, plotter, planster (plotter and panster combination.)

But what we don’t discuss much is the cost of giving your life to writing. Especially to writing fiction.

There’s a price tag, and while I love what I do, there are days I “feel” the price I’ve paid.

I have no co-workers. I sit in my lovely tower, which I adore, alone, every single day. Sometimes the phone never rings for me. I may not get a personal email or friendly phone call for days.

My family lives out of my state. I don’t have children. My life is carved out perfectly to crank out two books a year. But I gotta tell ya, it can get lonely.

I’m so grateful for the friends the Lord has given me. Susie Warren, Beth Vogts and a group of Romance Tweeters to help create some kind of "work environment."

I can’t write a book without calling Susie several times a week. Nearer to my deadline, I might call her several times a day. I value her friendship and input! What a gift.

But practically speaking, she lives in Minnesota. I live in Florida.


One of my favorite things from days-gone-by was my corporate job relationships. 

We had some sure laughs and some grand lunches, and great success on the job. I loved solving a problem and celebrating with my co-workers. 

The day-job provided immediate feedback.

Sure, there were the tough days, the drag-my-butt-into-the-office days. 

And I had a very interesting boss. But overall, I enjoyed my software project manager job.

I read about writing being a solitary life. I’m good with solitary. But friends, it is a really solitary life.

Writers have to say, “No,” to extra curricular activities. We can’t be running around town shopping, or lunching, or sadly, volunteering when deadlines are looming. Especially if you have a family to tend to as well.

We have to shut off the TV, the radio, the internet and just “be” with our stories and characters. 

We must face the pain of making people that only live in our heads and hearts come to life on the page.

Good writing days are followed by hard writing days. We wrestle with our insecurities and doubt. There might be days or weeks where we hear from no one in our profession: not a reader, an editor or agent.

The other day I was driving to morning prayer at church, wrestling with my lack of close, local friendships. 

No don’t go feeling sorry for me, I do have friends. I do! I’m not a hermit or miser. But, the friendships I used to have at work, or when in college, are gone. At my age, many of my friends are busy with children or even grandchildren!

As I mused over this, I finally thought, “Maybe it’s not that I lack friends but I lack the right perspective.”

I love my job! Love writing novels. I've wanted to do this since I was a girl. 

I'd have more regrets for not sitting in the tower and writing than the regrets of the lonely writer life.

The challenge for us is to be content exactly where God has us. As I mused over my situation, I heard Jesus say, “I’m Your friend.”

I teared up. “Will you come to my  house for Christmas dinner?”

“I will.”

See, it’s about perspective. 

What a true and dear friend we have in Jesus. And the friends I do have in my town, are lovely and always ready for a lunch when I can break free!

But, back to the writer’s life. Are you ready to pay the cost? I’m not the only writer who struggles with friendship time and heart-connections within the local community.

I’ve heard other writers share similar things.

Take stock of yourself. Are you too busy being a friend and doing other things to write? 

Even for writing moms, at some point, you have to close out the hubbub and noise of the family and write. I’m awed by my mom writing friends like Susan Warren, Cara Putman, Kristin Billerbeck and Tracey Bateman.

Are there things in your life cluttering out writing?

The life of a novelist will cost you precious things. But it is worth it. So very worth it.

Here's a few tips:

Get with the Lord. Spend time with Him, praying over your schedule, asking Him to release your heart as an author.

Counsel with your spouse or close friends, parents or other family. Is this the time to devote to writing and say no to other things? Or will that season come later. It is RIGHT and PERFECT to wait until the “write” season.

Find a place that’s yours to write. Make sure no one else invades. It’s yours. Even if it’s a table at Panera or Starbucks, make it your writing spot.

Schedule time to be with friends and family. Be purposeful. If you do ministry at your church or volunteer in the community, keep to a schedule. Don’t pick up extra jobs just because you feel bad for someone. Do ONLY what the Lord has called YOU to do.

Write on the hard days. Sometimes those words are better than the ones who come on the good days. If you only have an hour to write on busy days, take it!

Writing is purposeful. So is the writer’s life. Be purposeful. Tune out the noise. Still your heart and mind.
And write, counting the cost.

8 comments:

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Yes--there is a cost! When my kiddos were small (3 ages 3 and under), I wanted to write books SO badly. But the timing was not right. There's no way I could've devoted so much of myself to it at that stage, with sickness constantly making rounds, potty training, etc. And then I started homeschooling...and that took up more years. I'm still homeschooling, but now the kids are older and more independent. Still, I remember holing up to write that first book...writing every night after they were asleep...

I truly believe authors go through seasons. There are seasons when other activities take precedence over writing. Then there are seasons when you are writing as much as you can. I'm in that season now. I don't regret for one minute the time I spent w/my kiddos, homeschool group, friends, church activities, etc. I just know I can't get over-involved in anything at this stage, now that readers expect the next books.

Part of wisdom is being able to say no to things. Earlier in my life, I had to say no to writing books. Now, I have to say no to extra things/responsibilities. It is a price, for sure, but I know writers derive great satisfaction from the process of writing. Now the key is not letting social media/marketing take over our writing time. Hard to do!

Ane Mulligan said...

Beautiful, Rachel. I'm a people person (no big surprise there, is it) and writing keeps me in my tower, too. I could really relate to how friendships change as we get older. The most important part is the scheduling. If we don't, those lunch dates never happen. So right now, I'm going to call another writer friend and make a lunch date. Thanks!

sondrakraak said...

Rachel, wonderful and inspiring words. I'm humbled by your commitment to writing and your honesty. I started out as a writer on the side, but I know God's calling me to be more intentional about my pursuit and calling as a novelist. As a worship leader and Bible study leader, there are temptations to fill the schedule with more than I should. I'm taking your phrase, "release your heart" and praying it. I know God will give me the direction I need, and the grace to obey. Blessings on your ministry!

Ron Estrada said...

Thanks for sharing, Rachel. While I still have my day job, I do miss the time in the evenings when I could engage in a bit of doing nothing. I especially miss doing nothing with my wife. I made a bit of a compromise. She's allowed to plop down and bother me when I'm writing. The "inform your family that this is your writing time" rule didn't quite pan out. But that's okay. I know she loves being married to a writer, even if he's unpublished and 98% of his writing friends are women (trust me...it's come up). And I don't think I could live with myself if I sacrificed my writing for whatever it is normal people do in the evening. Thanks again!

Gina Holmes said...

I'm not sure if I would have taken this path if I knew just how high the cost would be but the reward is great. It does get lonely though. I went back to working part time because I couldn't stand that much solitude. Now I miss having more time to write... ha

Rachel Hauck said...

Thanks everyone. You know, we always have to count the cost of life choices. Marriage. Children. Careers. Ministry. Even serving Jesus.

But, like most of you, I know I'm doing what I'm called to do. ;)

Gina, I'm glad you're writing!

Ron, yeah, you have to do what works for you. I'm glad your wife is "allowed" to bother you. That's important too.

Much love,
Rachel

Sierra Donovan said...

Your timing is perfect. I needed to read this today! Thanks.

Shellie Tomlinson said...

Hey Rach! Your comment on SBV piqued my interest and I found myself here to see what "great minds thinking alike" had produced this week. :) So glad I did. Totally enjoyed this post. Wise, wise words. Grateful for Jesus who knows just how much solitude I can take! :)))