I happened upon an article yesterday by an author who claimed he wanted to tell the truth about writing. He says that although most writers talk about the fun of creating characters and devising diabolical schemes to get those characters in trouble, these authors don’t tell the other side of the story — that writing is work, and seldom fun. He talked about delving deep into his psyche to show his fears, and he talked about the sacrifices that writers need to make, most notably, taking time away from their families so they can write.
This disclosure didn’t sit well with me. If writing isn’t fun, why do it? There are millions of books published every year, thousands every day. Believe me, yours will not be missed. Perhaps you are one of the very small percentage of writers who actually make a living by writing, in which case, you should set aside regular work hours so that you have time for your families. But if you don’t have a contract to fulfill (either with your publisher, your landlord, or your mortgage holder), and you aren’t having fun, and you are having to sacrifice family time, what’s the point?
Those of us who have lost someone vital in our lives know a deeper truth — that time spent with loved ones is the only time there is. Well, maybe not the only time, but it’s not worth sacrificing that all-too-brief time for something as silly and self-indulgent as writing.
And yes, writing is silly and self-indulgent, and only important in a make-believe world such as ours where food does not have to be gathered or hunted in the wilds, and the only predators are other humans.
I can see you bristling and can see the words coming out of your mouths like cartoon dialogue bubbles: “But I’m compelled to write.” “Life is not worth living if I don’t write.” “I need that time for me.” “I write to explore my mind.” “I write to make sense of life.” I understand all that, because I too write to explore my inner world and to make sense of life, but I also put life first, otherwise there would be no life to make sense of. But I don’t suffer for my craft, and I do not make sacrifices. For example, as self-indulgent post as this post might be, I am not sacrificing anything. My life mate is dead, and my 96-year-old father (my current responsibility) is taking a nap. And I’m having fun with this little rant.
Parents, mates, children die. At the very least, children grow up, and while you are suffering for your writing, they are suffering for your attention. Of course you have dreams of being a great writer, or at least being a selling writer, but if you’re sacrificing family to attain that dream, then you are sacrificing the one thing you can never get back — those precious moments of being connected to another human being, those moments that give meaning to your life and your writing. And that’s the truth.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.