Life in progress

Missing the Magical Switch

61 Comments

Greater, more successful writers than myself (not a stretch) state that in order to be a writer one must dedicate one’s effort into writing: a writer must write. Here lies my conundrum.

I have no qualms over calling myself a writer. It’s what I do constantly – if I’m not physically typing on a keyboard or writing little notes, I’m composing something in my head with hopes that I’ll remember it.

But being a single mom, 80% responsible for two kids (meaning that I get to sleep 15% of the time and the other 5% is when their dad takes care of them) and having to be always within calling distance of my own mother, I don’t have time to write. What might take me three months more of full-time editing on my novel to render it publishable is, at the rate I’m going, bound to take me three years. Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe it.

I imagine there is, somewhere in the universe, a switch that can be flicked which could cause me to be able to stop merely calling myself a writer and become one. I realize that I cannot expect to ever take on a full-time job; my life is with my children, and taking care of them is apparently my job and mine alone. Would I want it any other way? Absolutely not.

Yet writing is also my life. I don’t live for my children – anyone who says they do, in my opinion, is in for a huge let-down when their kids leave home for good. I live for myself and I am a writer. I have a story that I feel needs to be told, of a world where I hope one day people will be able to escape, as I have. It’s inside me, it’s on my screen and it’s on paper, and all it wants is to be polished to a bright, shiny tale that many will love.

If only the magical switch to make it all come true wasn’t so far out of my reach.

Author: Linda G. Hill

There's a writer in here, clawing her way out.

61 thoughts on “Missing the Magical Switch

  1. Hi there, nice to meet you. Just found your blog via HarH ReaLiTy and love your blog posts. I know the feeling of frustration not having enough time to write. I have a day job and am a step mum and there are a thousand more things I would love to do like reading for example :-). I try to just be happy with what time I have and get as much done as possible in that time. It’s probably the only way. Thanks for sharing. Bee

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    • Hi Bee! Nice to meet you too ๐Ÿ™‚ There never seems to be enough time to do things for ourselves, does there? Choosing to be content is hard, but you’re right. It’s the only way. Thanks very much for stopping by, and for your comment! ๐Ÿ˜€

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  2. Pingback: Whatโ€™s the worst writing advice youโ€™ve ever received? | Write on the World

  3. I know the feeling — finding the time to write is the hardest thing about writing. Learning to edit yourself is the hardest thing about editing. (I edit professionally and I still have trouble with it.) But I’m a fan of the “whenever possible” approach, because it’s a semi-efficient use of my time.

    Keep at it – you’ll get there!

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    • Thanks very much for your encouragement. ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree, it’s difficult to see past what you mean to write, to focus on what’s actually there. When I edit someone else’s writing I’m quick to say, “I don’t understand this part,” but strangely, I never say that to myself…

      hehe

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  4. I have a horribly bad habit of editing as I write. This slows my writing to something akin to running in soft sand. I hate it. And I am resolved to break that habit and just get on with the writing. I actually enjoy the editing process, but when you really have not much to edit due to not getting enough down to actually edit…. rambling here… Guess I need to go back and edit this comment.
    Great Post. Made me think. Thank you.

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    • Haha! Thanks very much, and you’re welcome, Lance. NaNoWriMo cured me of the habit of editing as I go. I enjoy editing as well, almost as much as writing it, because I find myself studying my own motivations. It’s all a very interesting process.

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  5. I don’t know where the magic switch is either. My best writing comes to me at 4am, when the house is still, or sometimes on a random Thursday morning, again when the house is still.
    When I did NaNo in 2012, I neglected everyone in my house, and every duty or obligation. I was a very effective writer that month. And that’s all. I didn’t shower regularly, or take exercise, or play with my dog, or bake yummy treats…I snapped at my family a lot. When I was all done, my household was an absolute wreck, and my family wasn’t so much proud as they were relieved. Then did I reward myself with time off? No. I caught up on all my chores and trimmed my freakin jagged nails!
    I suspect a devoted writer’s work is best suited to single, bohemian lifestyle. But I still take the time, dammit! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  6. That should read ‘โ€ฆhaving managed only three daysโ€ฆ’!

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  7. Oh my, life gets in the way. It will come. I’m still hoping, have managed three days on NaNoWriMo before events turned my life upside down. Again! Wishing you strength and energy. x

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  8. Finding the balance is so very difficult. I always come up with great ideas or the resolution to a plot point when I’m in the middle of a project at work or in the midst of a family crisis.

    I try to write whenever I have any kind of time to do so- and then often find that there’s nothing creative going on, so I will generally make use of the time by editing instead. Anything to keep something happening with my various writing projects.

    I agree with M’Lady the English Professor. Once you’ve got a full draft finished you should really seek an editor to help you look at it objectively and with a bit of distance.

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    • I finished my first draft about a year ago and have been editing ever since. I’m in my fourth edit now, but the final one won’t come until I’ve had it beta-read by a few people who will, I hope, give me honest critique.

      Writing was the easy part. Now I actually have to think about it, which takes far more time.

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      • Outside eyes might well let you clarify your own thoughts on the draft. It’s so easy to become ‘married’ to your ideas- even when they mightn’t be working- that the external perspective might move things forward. Good luck with it all. Look forward to hearing about your progress!

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        • Thanks very much, Cole. I do find myself a bit too close to the story to really be able to decide where and if to cut parts out of it. The first draft weighed in at 214K words, of which I was able to cut out about 65K in the first edit. Now I need to figure out if I should cut another 60K or turn it into a trilogy. ๐Ÿ˜›

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  9. It’s difficult to find time, but any minute or two will do, even if you just jot down a few notes or lines to jump start when you find an hour or two to write without interruptions. You may want to find an editor to help you after the first draft. That’s my profession, and I can give you some free tips on self-editing if you’d like.

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    • I’m actually on my fourth draft, and hoping to polish it to the best of my abilities before sending it out. Where I to plan to hand it over to an editor, is this advisable? Or is it better to employ an editor only after the first draft?

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      • An editor comes in after you have finished your final draft. Then, he or she makes suggestions and corrects for grammar, spelling,punctuation,and sentence structure. If your manuscript is accepted for publishing, an editor on the publisher’s staff will read it. You have it edited before that so that you can present a manuscript that is as perfect as it can possibly be to the publisher. Be aware that they have readers who are the first to see your work. You need to impress them with the cleanness of your copy so they keep reading without mentally criticizing grammatical,etc. mistakes. Read your copy out loud to yourself or others. The ear will pick up faulty or awkward sentence structure that the eye skips over. Sometimes, it helps to read backwards to check for spelling errors.After you finish that final draft, put it aside for three or four days, at least, before re-reading it, so you can look at it with fresh eyes.

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        • Thanks very much for the tips. I’ve already put it down for a month (during NaNo last year) and then read it beginning to end, which was when I realized it needed line-by-line editing to make it more interesting. What I’m struggling with most is paring it down to meet guidelines for word count. It’s too long – but I can’t see how I can cut things out of it. I see everything in it as necessary to carry the plot/reveal characters. So now I’m working on taking out unnecessary individual words, hoping it won’t affect the flow of the storytelling…

          Once I’m happy with it, I’ll definitely send it to you for revision. ๐Ÿ™‚

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          • Sometimes you can show,not tell, by using conversation to carry the plot and cut down on word count.
            It’s hard eliminating words, but sometimes it is necessary, or you will find one word can do the work of two. Short story writers have to juggle the language. In novels, you can expand. What is the final word count you need to meet?
            I look forward to reading it.

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            • After the first draft I ended with 214K words. The third edit chopped it down to 177K. The most I’ve found a traditional publisher would even look at is 140K. What I’m hoping from my beta readers is to know if it’s as strong as I think it is as one book or if it should be cut into two, or even three. There is a natural break about a third of the way through, but I think it would weaken the story to make that part of the story a climax worthy of the end of a novel.

              As for showing and not telling – I’m actually guilty of not putting enough narration in already. I don’t know if you’ve read any of it, but my “Boy Series…” was an experiment in compression. It’s hard to read too much of that kind of storytelling at once though, I find.

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  10. Linda, dear loin-cloth wearing Linda, are you at a point where the story is done and needs editing?

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  11. The switch is different for everyone. For me, it was realizing that I wasn’t going to get a full-time job and somebody had to be home for when the toddler got out of school. A unique situation and I took advantage of it. It’s still a battle for writing time. I wish I had some advice for you on that. I write in the bathroom and when the toddler is eating or entertaining himself. Not much, but it’s something.

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  12. I don’t think that that switch is ever that far out of reach. When you write, you fingertip is on it and the more that you write, the more pressure you will apply to it until finally, it happens.

    Writing is my life as well. I’m a father of four, and while I’m not single it sometimes can feel that way. Working the graveyard shift prevents me from being able to spend any time with my significant other, whom I only see for four minutes/day at best.

    I am Mr. Mom, taking the oldest to school and entertaining, feeding and enriching the lives of my little ones during the day, but I also live for writing. I know what it’s like to feel the weight of impossible bearing down, but there’s always a way to make it time for it.

    For you, I hope for the best with your work. You’ll get there. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thanks very much. It seems we’re in much the same boat. I find it harder to edit when I have only a small amount of time than when I’m writing – editing is what I’m trying to accomplish at the moment. Do you find the same thing?

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      • Well, you’re absolutely right here. Editing is MUCH more difficult when presented with only a short amount of time to do it.

        With my first book, I spent a tenth of the time editing as I did writing. This was just enough time for me, but I could never get enough done as I wanted to. Furthermore, I find self-editing to be a very difficult and grueling process. Because I know what it should say on paper, I somehow trick myself into seeing it there even when it isn’t.

        Which is why I developed a better system for my second book.

        Instead of waiting until ‘the end’ to begin working on them, I began editing after each chapter, or writing session. When the book was finished, I went over it again and cleaned up anything I missed. Finally, before sending a copy off to my beta readers, I read it leisurely and without any intentions of doing anything other than enjoying it. (This last relaxed trick helped me find an entire section I apparently slept through? lol)

        To make a long story short, I think a little goes a long way.

        When I was done, I wanted to rush through it and get it published, which was a fool’s errand on my part. Once I realized that the time I took to clean up my work, no matter how little or how much, was as important as the time I took to write it, everything else fell into place.

        I think if you can reach that point where you don’t feel like the process is weighing you down, you’ll worry less about the time left on the clock and more about the quality spent?

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        • Editing as you go seems like such a sensible thing to do, and yet every time I try, I lose the flow, and sometimes the plot altogether. You’re lucky I think, that it works for you.

          For me, this project is all about quality. I’m spending an average of about an hour per page in my editing this time around. I won’t be happy until I can deem each line perfect by my own standards and to my own ear.

          I’m 10% through 524 pages… The clock is ticking regardless of how I feel about it. ๐Ÿ˜›

          I do thank you for sharing and for your wonderful insight. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  13. It’s almost as if I wrote that…

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  14. It can seem frustrating not having the luxury of time to pursue one’s aspirations. Perhaps you can take solace in the fact that you have a very healthy balance between dedication to your sons and understanding that you are an individual, too.

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