Do you really want to be an author?
Writing is sacrifice, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
And no, I don’t just mean sacrificing the odd goat to the Goddess of Inspiration (though if you do, also be prepared to sacrifice hours getting those stains out. Lesson learned!)
Nor do I just mean spending a little less time on gaming or Netflix bingeing, though that may also be required.
True, every writer’s writing method and path to publication differs. And every writer’s life circumstance is different. But even if you are blessed to have retired, or be independently wealthy, or have someone supporting you financially, there are still sacrifices to be made.
And sometimes, these sacrifices are ones we don’t like to admit or talk about.
The first and least problematic level of casualties are indeed things like television and video games. Yes, we need to “refill the creative well,” and also let our brains rest now and then. Yes, at some point each day our brains just no write gooder words. And you may even convince yourself that playing Assassin’s Creed is research for your assassin story. But you may still have to make conscious choices to cut back, to limit the shows you watch and the hours you play. And you may also need to change when you do such things, to prioritize your writing when you are in your best writing state – and then the question becomes, what else are you giving up in the time slot to which you have moved your TV and game time? It could be extra sleep, it could be reading time, it could be quality time with others, or …
The second level may be other passions or goals or serious hobbies. Perhaps you are also a visual artist, or photographer, or you make music. Perhaps you are starting a business, or love taking classes. Perhaps you practice martial arts. Maybe you hope to be a YouTube star by having your drunk cat dress in historical garb and try to bake. OMG. Wait! Don’t steal that idea! I’m totally going to — No. No, there are only so many hours in a day, and the more you invest in these other interests, the less time you are writing. The less time you write, the longer before you finish each story or book, the longer it takes you to grow as a writer, and the longer between chances of being published. The more you write, the less time you are practicing or investing in your other interests. You have choices to make.
The third level becomes even more problematic. That is social time. Particularly if your weekdays are filled with work (and this includes stay-at-home mothers/fathers because that is WORK). If your nights and weekends are filled with hanging out with friends or going out to restaurants or bars or shows or events or gatherings or holidays or birthdays or … when do you have the time to write? When do you have the energy to write? An author must sometimes say “No” to doing fun things and being social, and instead sit somewhere and write. (And yes, scifi/fantasy writers DO get invited to lots of parties. Whatever!) This does not mean stop doing ALL fun things or ALL social activities – that isn’t healthy—but you do have to start protecting and prioritizing your writing time. Sometimes, you have to be your own taskmaster.
The fourth level may be financial. Writing costs money, especially once published. Yes, you would hope that those costs will be balanced by income from writing (HA HA HA HA! Oh. Sorry…), but for most writers, it is not, especially if you calculate your pay-per-hour rate for actually writing. There may be promotional material expenses. There may be the cost of writing classes, workshops and retreats. There may be the cost of attending conventions and festivals to promote or network. Business cards. Paper and printer ink. Software. Shipping of copies for contests or promotion. If you self-publish, the cost of good cover art and editing and formatting. Budget for these things, and understand where the money comes from.
The fifth level is perhaps the most difficult to face or admit if you have a partner and/or children. That is lost time with loved ones and family. We all know the movies where “Person X is chasing success, yet in doing so loses sight of the most important thing of all — his/her family.” Well, guess what – to be a successful author, you have a choice to make here as well. The simple fact is that, especially if you work a day job, every minute you write is quality time you are not spending with your loved ones. And every minute you invest in them is time you are not directly investing in your writing. Yes, you can write while they are asleep or away, if you have that luxury. But is that enough time writing? And is that your best writing time, the time when your brain will be at its creative and productive best? And what are you trading away then? Rest? Other activities you would normally do when they are asleep or away? And what ultimately will you receive in exchange for the time invested in your children, internally and externally? How does that compare to what you will receive in exchange for the time invested in yourself and your writing? What do you owe yourself versus others? How much of your time and energy do you owe yourself versus others? For many, this is not an easy or comfortable topic to honestly debate.
Basically, how important to you is being an author, really? How much of a life priority are you really willing to make writing? The answer is extremely personal, and there is no right or wrong answer except the one you come up with. But if you aren’t willing to make some sacrifices, there is a good chance it will take you much longer to grow as a writer, much longer to be published (or publish something that is great/successful) if ever, and much longer between each published work.
However, we must be careful not to sacrifice ourselves (especially on the promise of resurrection as an Elder God — I nearly fell for that one, but never again). We must still protect our health and happiness.
If physically able, we must still find time (and the motivation) for exercise. Cardio especially is good for your mood, your memory, and energy levels, all important not only for quality of life, but also improve your writing.
And healthy, active relationships with partners, friends and family are important for overall health and happiness. Don’t isolate yourself. Find the balance that works for you.
Periodically reassess your priorities, as they may shift. Perhaps you recently took up political activism. Where does that time come from? If from writing, can you shift things around and take it from somewhere else? Is writing important enough that you want to sacrifice something else at that point? Is there a timeframe in which you will cut back on the new priority and put that time back into writing?
Finally, know what it truly is you are sacrificing for and be sure you will ultimately be happy regardless of outcome.
Because success as an author is not guaranteed. Certainly, with very few exceptions, you will not become suddenly rich or famous as an author. And once published the level of sacrifice actually increases, not decreases. You will have deadlines and promotional articles and posts and interviews to write and promotional travel to bookstores and conventions, etcetera – i.e. you will need to devote even more time to the work of being an author, on top of the time you still spend writing and editing and submitting.
Writing is sacrifice (indeed, this applies to most any passion or serious goal). So make sure you admit that and control what is sacrificed so that you have ownership of the results, rather than regrets. And control whether or not you are writing what you love, what makes you happy to write, so that the sacrifices are worth it regardless of result.