A commenter raised an interesting point when I talked about my October plan last week. (Short version – life has been more stressful than usual, and the new book is requiring a lot more work, so I’m buckling down and trying to finish this draft by November 2.)
I’m paraphrasing the comment, but he basically pointed out that if writing isn’t fun anymore, if it’s adding to my stress instead of helping me to relax, maybe that’s a sign that I should stop. (I’ll note that he said he didn’t want me to stop writing; but he was thinking about my mental/emotional well-being, which I appreciate.)
It’s a valid question. If writing had become nothing but a chore, I’d give serious consideration to quitting after I filled this contract. I’ve left jobs before when it got to the point where I pretty much dreaded going to work each day.
And for me, writing is a job. It’s a job I love, but it’s also a lot of work. There are good days and bad. If I spend my lunch hour stuck on a scene, making little progress and feeling like I’ve utterly lost control of the story, it can ruin my entire day. On the other hand, the days when I feel good about what I’ve written, well, that’s a high like nothing else.
But even on the good days, it’s still work.[1. Sure, a decade ago I would have killed to have this kind of work. That doesn't change the fact that it eats up a lot of time and energy.] Not just the putting-words-on-paper part. There’s answering emails from fans, fellow writers, my editor, and my agent. There’s conventions and booksignings and other events. There’s poking around online for mention of my books. (You can laugh, but this is how I discovered The Legend of Jig Dragonslayer was going to be available through the Science Fiction Book Club.)
Oh … um … by the way, The Legend of Jig Dragonslayer is available through the Science Fiction Book Club!!!
Now, where was I?[2. If your first thought was Australia, you get five bonus points.]
Thinking about my life as a writer reminds me of something that came up in karate, talking about how some students quit when they decide it’s not fun anymore. That’s certainly a valid choice. But the thing is, whether it’s writing or karate, the path isn’t a smooth, steady climb. Sometimes you stumble. Sometimes you get stuck. There will come a time where if you want to get better, you’re going to have to fall down. You may get hurt. You may swear a lot and kick holes in the drywall.[3. I've only done that once, and it was a long time ago.] And at times, it may not much fun.
Sometimes it’s not worth it. Either the climb is too hard, or you just don’t have the energy. That’s okay. Nobody can do everything, and you’ll destroy yourself if you try.
But I love being a writer. I love creating stories. And I want to get better at it. Looking over the past 17 years, this journey has been one of the hardest, bumpiest things I’ve ever done. It has, at times, been incredibly depressing and frustrating. But it’s also been one of the most rewarding journeys, and while it may not always be fun, and it is at times a lot of work, it’s work I choose to do.
The fact that the writing is now a significant portion of our household income certainly doesn’t hurt matters, either.
In a lot of ways, life would be easier and less stressful if I stopped writing. It might even be more fun, as it would free up time and energy for other things.
But I love writing, and I love being a writer. And for me, it’s worth it.