Happy Mothers Day, to all Mammas, Step Moms, Mother In Laws, and anyone who’s been a maternal influence.
We’ve been lied to, all of us aspiring writers. Oh, it was with the best of intentions, as most lies are. But it was a lie, all the same. We have been told that it doesn’t take nearly as much time as we all think to become a great writer. We have been told, over and over, if we can devote whatever spare minutes we have in a day, we will prevail. We will become writers.
Well, I shouldn’t say that it’s a total lie. Every good lie has a kernel of truth, after all. If you are just trying to become a writer, short stories work very well in small segments of time. Even novel length manuscripts can be written like that. Sure, it can, I’ve done it. Often my short stories are written between calls at my day job. I’ve said the same thing. If you are establishing a writing routine in your life, and all you have is maybe five minutes while your little one takes a nap, or 15 minutes on the bus to work, you slay that time! You make that story, because it’s better than nothing. Yes, you can write a whole book, minutes at a time. And if you’re writing, you’re a writer.
But I’ve learned better. if you intend to do something with your writing, then it’s going to take more than little sips of time. And everyone needs to stop telling this lie, because it’s hurting writers.
It doesn’t take into account editing
If you’ve never sat down, and edited a long piece of work, this might be something you’re not aware of, but you can’t just edit a page at a time and expect awesome results. For one thing, you’ve got to see your piece as a whole so you can find and patch plot holes. Usually, when I’m rough drafting I can’t remember half of what happened in part one by the time I get to part three. So if I put a gun on the mantle, I forgot that it needed to go off. It can also be frustrating as hell. You read a flawed paragraph, and you free write to fix it. Then you don’t get to write it until later. I know, when this has happened to me, I’ve forgotten my brilliant fix by that time. Generally I try to not edit unless I’ll have at least an hour to commit to the project.
It doesn’t take into account submitting
When you’re looking for an agent or editor to send your work to, prepare to spend a lot of time online. Don’t forget that before an agent accepts you, you have to accept them. Do they represent your genre? Have they had successful sales recently? What’s their standing on Predators and Editors? Then, there’s the query writing process, which should not be rushed. Again, this can take up to an hour, at least, if you’ve been doing it awhile.
It doesn’t take into account learning about the craft
If you’re a writer, you’ve also got to be a reader. Read books for pleasure, yes, but also to learn from them. Read articles to learn, listen to podcasts. This takes time, man, lots of time. Sure, you can dip into a book for five minutes or so, but if you intend to finish the book there had better be a lot of five minute increments built into you day.
Not just learning, but practicing. Free writing, trying to write from a different POV, learning poetry forms, all of this takes time. And if you short change your practice, you short change your writing career.
It doesn’t take into account marketing
I don’t spend as much time on marketing and self promotion as I should, most likely. I’m getting better at it, but there are so many things to do. I send my book to book review sights, pitch it on social media, run ad campaigns, and all the other crap I do to make sure people hear about my books. It takes time, and traditional writers have to do a lot of this too, your publisher won’t always do it for you. Most writers have websites or blogs they maintain, like myself. PBW accounts for about four hours a week, easy. You might say that marketing isn’t really writing, and you’re totally right. But how else will anyone hear about your book? Sure, word of mouth is great, but it’s hard to get that when no one has read it at all.
It doesn’t take into account all the insane little things like getting a bar code, compiling a story into a book, or the hours and hours you can spend designing a damned cover.
I spent nearly a week preparing Days to be published. Not a week full of five minutes here and there, a week of two to four hours at a time working. It required time, it required focus. It required my monsters to be in school. I then spent hours getting everything on the Gumroad and Tablo websites. It wasn’t hard work, but it was time consuming work, and certainly not something I could have done a little at a time.
It discourages us from making serious lifestyle changes that could allow for better, longer writing sessions.
Deciding to be a writer, not as a hobby but as a career, is a commitment. And the further you get into it, the more it will demand of your time. For me, that meant I had to cut some things out of my life to make room for it. I cut my addiction to time management games, I stopped reading as many comic books, I narrowed the time I spend watching tv. Once I started valuing my writing time, I stopped talking to some people that, quite frankly, it was better for me to not talk to. I still spend time with the people I value. Not as much as I’d like, but that’s because of time and work constraints.
Not only have I cut bad habits out of my life, I’ve added good ones. I commit to writing time in the morning before work. I bring my writing with me, and work on it whenever I have time.
I’m really glad that I did all of those things. Writing has brought fulfillment to my life in such a way that nothing else but my children ever did. I miss my comic books, but it’s worth it to me.
Another thing I want you to keep in mind is that while I might be able to commit to an hour, five minutes at a time, I probably won’t get as much writing done as if I sat down for a whole hour and wrote. I didn’t have to stop and start so many times. Now, if I have just five minutes, I’ll take them. But I reach for those longer sessions, and I do what I need to to get them.
It makes us feel guilty that we’re not producing more
And this is the worst one, in my opinion. Telling people, “I did this, and I did it with just the end bits of time through my day,” makes some people, including me, feel guilty. What am I doing wrong that I can’t do the same thing? Why are her five minutes more productive than mine? Am I just stupid, what the hell is wrong with me?
No, stop that. Nothing is wrong with you, that person is lying. It’s the same mentality that makes people put on a full face of make up, take a selfie, then post it with a #nofilter #Iwokeuplikethis. No you didn’t you liar. We just all think we should be effortlessly beautiful, productive, patient and tidy. Well let me tell you, it’s not happening at my house, and probably not at yours either. If I’m going to have a productive day, I have to be up by 6:30 at the latest, at my desk by 7:00 and off to work by 9:15. Now, if I don’t manage that, I’ll fit in time whenever I can, but I really push to manage that. I have to.
Please, don’t think that this means that you don’t have the time to be a writer. It’s very likely that you do. And if all the time you have to give to it right now is five minutes, give that time. But you’re going to need more that than eventually. Anyone who tells you otherwise, is a liar.