If you’ve been at the writing business for very long, you know how it goes. Friends and family members just don’t understand what you do. Sometimes the hardest issue to deal with is when they assume that during your writing time you aren’t really working. Innocently enough (in their minds), they’ll ask you to help with some task, take on a project, or attend a meeting. But when we’re trying to create, even a friendly invitation for coffee or a lunch date can seem like an intrusion.
Maybe you feel just enough doubt about the legitimacy of what you’re doing that you give in. “Sure,” you say. “I’m free.”
Well, guess what—and it doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or if you’re multi-published. You are not free, and neither is your time.
And I promise you, if we don’t respect our writing time enough to say no, neither will anyone else.
Unfortunately, even among family and friends who know I’m a writer, some people still don’t get it. Last month I declined to attend a very worthwhile meeting of a church group I’m involved with because the chairman scheduled it during my prime writing time. Even after I explained, I got a few surprised reactions, mostly along the lines of, “Really? I had no idea!”
Recently another acquaintance casually asked if I have a “writing schedule,” or if I just wrote when I felt inspired.
“I certainly do have a schedule,” I answered. “I’m under contract, and I have deadlines I have to meet.”
More surprised looks.
I can’t even tell you how long it took to train my husband not to interrupt me willy-nilly during my writing time, so I guess I shouldn’t be so amazed that other family members, much less friends or casual acquaintances, remain clueless.
But let’s face it—the writing life is a life like no other. What other career allows you to spend half your work time daydreaming, the other half immersed in fictional worlds where you are calling all the shots (unless you have really stubborn, opinionated characters)? Speaking of which, can you think of any other field where it’s actually okay to talk to people in your head—and hear them talk back???
It isn’t just a lack of respect for our time, though. There are so many other aspects of the writing life that are utterly foreign to the “muggles” in our world.
So I polled the Seekers with this question:
Janet Dean: I wish non-writer friends and family would realize the time it takes for me to get back into the story after an interruption.Missy Tippens: I wish they knew how much planning, rewriting, revising, editing and pulling of hair/gnashing of teeth go on before they see the finished product. It's not as easy as it might look!Julie Lessman: I wish people understood that for most writers, writing a novel is like giving birth in the emotional realm, so it’s best to tread softly when offering “constructive criticism” that can often be akin to calling their “baby” ugly. Especially for people the author is close to like family and friends, I subscribe to the old adage that if you can’t say anything nice, it’s best not to say anything at all, in which case a nod and a smile works nicely.Pam Hillman: I wish they would believe me when I tell them that most bookstores are more than happy to order books that they don’t have in stock. The store will call or email when the book comes in and you just drop by and pick it up. Win-win!Cara Lynn James: I wish my family would understand I hate to be interrupted when I'm writing. I lose my concentration.
Glynna Kaye: Yes, my books are in Walmart, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon--but no, I don’t make enough money to quit my day job. I continue to write because I love to write.
Tina Radcliffe: This would be for my non-writer friends, because after a zillion years of living with me, my family definitely gets it. I would like them to understand that it's a job. IT'S A JOB. I go from job one to job two. I put in the hours and I get a paycheck. There is no ending, but there is an occasional vacation for good behavior.Mary Connealy: I wish they knew that when they ask me writer questions I really have LONG DETAILED ANSWERS THEY DON'T WANT TO HEAR. I know they don't want to hear them, so I give them a flip answer and move on, but if they PUSH I can absolutely answer in detail all about my book and where I get my ideas and how I think of a whole story. And what inspires me. And the editorial process and how they make book covers . . . I know all about all of that and the answer is FASCINATING to me and utterly boring to them. Which is why it's fun to hang around other writers, because they ask the same questions and are FASCINATED (right along with me) with the answers. Anyway, so if my answer is shallow and flip, TRUST ME, that's all you want to know. And I get sick of watching your eyes glaze over.
On a more positive note (not that the rest of us were whining or anything) . . .
Debby Giusti: I wish my readers would know how much their support means to me. Often when I'm struggling to create a new story, someone will say they enjoy my books or that they couldn't put down the last story in my series. Their kind words boost my sometimes flagging spirit and give me the encouragement to continue on. Recently a lady told me she had all 16 of my books and had read each of them at least twice. As you can imagine, her words touched me deeply and made me want to work harder to become a better writer.
Debby’s response leads in nicely to the subject of book reviews. I don’t begin to understand algorithms and such, but those who do claim that reviews posted on Amazon and other online book retailers’ sites are vital for gaining visibility. In other words, the more reviews a book has, the better chance it has of being noticed. Here’s a blog post by someone who can explain it better than I can.
What’s something you wished the non-writers in your life would understand about what you do?
Or, for our reader visitors, is there something about your work or daily life that you wish others understood a little better? Here's your chance to vent (nicely, of course)!
I’m offering two giveaways today! Just mention in your comment if you’d like to be entered in the drawing for either one.
- An autographed copy of my newest release, The Sweetest Rain, from Franciscan Media.
- The new audiobook version of my debut novel, One Imperfect Christmas
The Sweetest Rain. As the drought of 1930 burns crops to a crisp, Bryony Linwood dreams of cooling winter snows and the life she would have had if Daddy hadn’t been killed in the Great War and Mama hadn’t moved Bryony and her sisters to their grandfather’s struggling tenant farm in tiny Eden, Arkansas. Now Mama’s gone, too, and as times grow tougher, Bryony will do whatever it takes to ensure her family’s survival.
Michael Heath barely survived the war, and twelve years later all he wants to do is forget. A virtual recluse, his one passion is botanical illustration. Lost in the diversity of nature’s beauty, he finds escape from a troubled past and from his wealthy father’s continual pressure to take an interest in the family plantation.
When Bryony accepts employment at the Heath mansion, it’s just a job at first, a means to ward off destitution until the drought ends and Grandpa’s farm is prosperous again. But Bryony’s forced optimism and dogged determination disguise a heart as dry and despairing as the scorched earth . . . until she discovers Michael Heath and his beautiful botanical illustrations. As their relationship deepens, friendship soon blossoms into healing for wounded souls and a love that can’t be denied.
One Imperfect Christmas. Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she's allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves - most of all her husband, Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she's one Christmas away from hitting rock bottom.
Junior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit's end. Nothing he's done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa's adolescent rebellion isn't helping matters. As Daniel's hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear.