Dealing With Demons*
I've spent the last couple of weeks dealing with some unusual (for me) insecurities. One had to do with family, but was indirectly related to being a writer, the other was directly related to writing and led to a realization about how I need to work. I've also been learning that even established authors still deal with insecurities when it comes to writing. Which is kind of depressing in the sense of "oh my Gad--you mean I'll never be free of this crap?!" But it can be reassuring too--maybe I won't piss off fans with my own sense of self-importance the way a few authors have in recent years. (I've already told friends that if I ever get to the point where I think I don't need an editor, they are to slap me silly. I can't see myself ever becoming a popular enough author to warrant such arrogance or ever getting over my own insecurities enough to ever think I don't need help, but who knows what the future holds?) The thing about insecurities, though, is you have to find a way through or around them to keep going. You can't let them strangle you.
My first demon had to do with not providing financially for my kids. Writing doesn't pay much for most authors. My writing doesn't even cover the cost of supplies yet. (Are you kidding? Ink alone wipes out what I make in a year!) while the amount I make is rising, it certainly can't be called a paying job. I'm in that "paying my dues" phase of my writing career--and may be here not only for a very long time, but for the entirety of my career. We have to be somewhat realistic: writing is a brutal business and, even with more opportunities to get paid publication, only a few really ever make this a supporting career. The funny thing about all this is that I've only ever wanted to be an at home mommy anyway. Now that I am, because of some issues and family needs that prevent me from working, I'm angsting about it. I guess it would be easier to deal with if I'd had more of a choice in the matter instead of making the only choice that made sense (because, yes, there was another option open to me, but taking the option that reduces our income when we barely get by as it is hardly makes any sense at all).
So, right now, regardless of the financial implications of my writing, I'd be home anyway. However, this doesn't mean I don't provide for my kids, and I had to realize this. I keep us from losing more money by giving my husband the hours he needs to work. I keep us from paying for childcare--which would probably eat up most, if not all, of any paycheck I would get. As a sub, there's no guarantee I'd be working every day--though I did work most days because I was one of those subs teachers wanted in their classrooms. And over the last year, it's become more and more obvious that I wasn't getting paid enough to really offset the cost of me working. So, even when I was bringing in a traditional income, I wasn't really providing financially for my kids. Towards the end of my subbing career, I was even paying for me to work.
Then there are the non-financial reasons for me to stay home. I provide something for my kids that a daycare never could: me. My time, my presence, my interaction. I help them get ready for school and see them off, make sure they've done everything they need and have everything they need. I'm here when they get home and can listen to their day and make sure they get their homework done and do whatever else they need to do. When my husband is late, I feed them (he's usually our cook). I provide stability in the routine of the day, something my son really needs. In this house, quality time goes hand in hand with quantity time. They get me, their mom, and no one can replace that.
So I do provide for my kids. Maybe not with money, but I do provide for them. And, since I'd be home anyway, I might as well write. There's ways to keep the costs down and ways to increase the income, both of which I'm working on.
Demon #1 dealt with. Hopefully for good, but angst has this annoying tendency to resurface, so we'll see. At least I now have this post to look at when it does.
Demon #2 is an odd one for me. I'm used to crises in confidence, but this had nothing to do with confidence. This one had to do with what I "should" be doing with my time. I wasn't thinking "hey, you're a lousy writer, give it up." I was thinking, "I may be an okay writer, but should I be writing?" I'm not even sure it came down to money, even though I'm sure that was part of it. I am selling, not frequently and not everything, but I'm seeing more sales now than when I started. But should I be trying to get published? Perhaps this was more of "how much of a waste of time is this?" kind of thing. The solution to this demon came down to two things for me:
1. Going back to the kids a bit here: I'd be home anyway. The press I edit for hasn't taken off enough for it to take up all my time, there's only so much housecleaning a person can do (if they even want to do that much housecleaning at all), and I'm not a TV and bonbons kind of person (even the PlayStation gets old after awhile--something it's starting to remind us of lately)...and I've always wanted to be a writer. And...I'd be home anyway, Might as well fill that time with what I love to do.
2. Oddly, what helped the most was writing fresh words. Not revising. Not checking for sense, technicalities, or anything--just getting a story down. It'll need to be revised later, yes, but, for now, I can just write it. Apparently, I need that to keep sane about my writing. Revising is about fixing the problems. Focus on nothing but fixing the problems, you begin to wonder if it's what you should be doing because all you're doing is fixing problems and there's always problems to fix. I don't like revisions. I know they're necessary, but, no, revising isn't a part of writing I enjoy. I don't enjoy them and see so much wrong with my writing that it's hard to feel like this is what I should be doing. To keep my love of writing alive, to think I should be doing this writing thing, I need fresh words. This means making sure I have a novel in that early part of creation while revising another project.
Once I wrote some new words on Phoenix Rising, that feeling that maybe I shouldn't be doing this dissipated. I just have to remember this the next time I get that feeling that I maybe I shouldn't be doing this writing thing. Granted, it may not come back, but I should plan for it anyway. For one, I tend to hyper focus. It's part of the ADHD, believe it or not. At some point, I'll get so totally focused on Assassin's Choice that nothing else will get worked on. Assassin's is in revisions and will be for the rest of the year. No (or very few) fresh words. So it will be easy to get caught back up in it and let anything fresh just slide because this "needs" to get done.
Demon #2 dealt with...for now.
Writing is such an odd profession. It's generally not thought of as a career unless you're Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, neither of which would be told by their spouses or parents to go get a "real" job. Even visual artists get more respect and support than your average writer. Despite the number of markets out there, it doesn't pay a living wage for most of us--a lot of which has to do with what those markets pay (or, more frequently, don't pay), but there are other reasons in there as well. So it comes with these "extra" demons. It's bad enough to be fighting feelings of insecurity, but we have to deal with all this other stuff as well. And it's a constant thing. There's this subtle pressure to prove yourself (by selling BIG, of course) or get out of the way. And that, apparently, never goes away...except maybe for King and Rowling. ;)
All of which makes me kind of glad I'd be home anyway. If I end up being able to fall back on nothing else for my writing, I can always remind myself of that. Hopefully, that, and the few publications I get each year, will be enough to keep me going despite my demons. I'm home anyway. Might as well do something I love to do. :)
Obstacles & Overcoming, Personal Insights