Saturday, December 05, 2009

Writing vs Family

During NaNoWriMo, I'm sure there were more than a few writers who basically screamed at their family, or husband, saying: "Get away from me! I'm 9,000 words behind and it's all your fault! Leave me alone! I have to catch up!" Now I'm wondering how many of those writers have slid, gasping, into December and have taken a few moments to reflect on what they did, and how their families responded. Were you someone who told your family to go away? To, just for once, give you time and space to write? After all, you had a target. 50,000 words. See - it's on the website. Look at my graph. Look at how far behind I am. If you don't let me write, I'll...

I know that this is a constant dilemma for many writers, and let's be honest here - mostly it's women writers who agonise about this. There are a lot of men (OK, OK, not you) who feel perfectly fine about shutting the door on family obligations in order to write. What you do is important and fulfilling, blah blah. But for women it's different. It's almost impossible to shut the door on a wailing child, or a sick child, or a poorly mother or grandma. We just can't do it. In fact, many of us can't do it even on an ordinary day. After all, the kids have to get to piano, or soccer, or drama. How else will they get there if I don't stop writing (or don't begin) and start up the car?

But if this is you, fellow female writers, did Nano teach you anything? Did you perhaps learn that when you had to get those words into the computer, a few other things were forced to take care of themselves? That not everyone's hand had to be held? That a frozen quiche or pasta or, goodness me, takeaway food doesn't kill people once in a while? That with some encouragement, or threats, your husband can actually bath the kids and prepare dinner? Have you taken a little time to sit down and think about your Nano month, how you fitted in those words, what changes you made to make it happen? Did the world collapse?

Putting other people first is a habit. For some of us, it's ingrained in us since childhood. And more often than not, putting your kids and husband first is tattooed somewhere on your brain. I'm not saying throw your family out the door so you can write. We all have lives to live with people we love. But there are 24 hours in a day, and after you take out sleeping, and working, does every single one that's left have to be given over to family - instead of writing? What about you? And your writing? How important is it to you?

What can happen is you have a meltdown. You run away from them for a whole weekend or, if you're lucky, a week. You go to a conference or a retreat and write yourself into a frenzy. Do you come home feeling satisfied? I know that everyone writes differently, but time and time again, I've discovered (and heard from others) that it's writing regularly that gets the book written, and written well. Now that Nano is finished - and even if you didn't attempt Nano - think about it. Can you make/demand five hours a week in which to write? Not beg for, or throw a tantrum over. Claim. Not every minute of your life belongs to everyone else. Surely you can claim five hours a week for your writing?


Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Five hours seems little enough!

Luckily my husband was understanding and supportive the year I did NaNo.

Sherryl said...

I'd think five would be the minimum! If you're writing a novel, anyway. Ten would be better.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Ah, I know this problem too well.

Best Regards,

Stokes Schwartz