Picture this: You are living your dream. You get paid to do the thing you love most. Life is good.
It’s always the “buts” in life that give us grief, right? Let me explain how this works in my situation.
When I was a young girl, I dreamed of being an artist of some sort: an opera singer, an actress, a writer. As time passed, I had fun singing in church and acting in church dramas, but my greatest satisfaction came when I married my sweetheart and we raised a family. When my children were nearly grown, I started writing. After working for years to hone my craft, I was blessed with book contracts, and I’ve been writing under contract for almost twenty years. Of my three childhood dreams, this one had actually come true.
Yea! Dreams fulfilled! Right?
Yes, absolutely. But here’s my “but.” Writing under contract means that I have a set amount of time to complete my novel and a date by which I must submit it to my editor. This is important because my publishers have all of their book releases carefully planned. If I don’t get my manuscript to them on time, it interrupts their schedule. They have to scramble to fill that spot. My spot! Thus, extended deadlines affect not only the publisher, but also the writer’s career. A responsible writer lives up to her contract and meets that all-important deadline. Sometimes it’s easier to do than others. Sometimes, as a deadline approaches, we writers get a little frantic.
Frantic? I can do frantic. In fact, lately, frantic has become my modus operandi. (At left, see Louise in a not-so-frantic mood at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL.)
You see, in addition to writing, I have a “day job.” For two days a week, I’m also a college professor of English and humanities. I have lessons to plan, classes to teach, and papers to grade. That leaves only four days to write. (I take Sundays off.) Not a lot of time to write a well-planned, well researched novel.
In addition, I have a busy family life. My widowed daughter and two grandchildren live with my husband and me, and the children are homeschooled. On the days when I’m writing in my home office, I have the privilege of listening to piano or guitar practice. Music to write by! Even when they start learning a new song and make many mistakes.
Of course there are many other school activities going on all the time. Sometimes, another homeschool family comes to our house so the moms can share their individual expertise with the other children. On those days, recess takes place right outside my window, another form of music to my ears.
Early this year, one of our sons was diagnosed with brain cancer. After surgery, he's now on chemo, but still manages to pastor his church, which my husband and I attend. For many weeks, I was privileged to take part in his care, driving him to appointments, etc., until he was able to drive again.
In the management of our house, we adults take turns fixing supper. My turn usually falls on days when I need to get a lot more words on the page or when I’m particularly inspired and don’t want to lose the thoughts churning through my brain. We can’t order in pizza or Chinese all of those times! So I cook. My grandson particularly likes my chicken pot pie, an all-day project to make!
(At left, our family, including those who live in their own houses and I'm sure don't have nearly the chaos we do.)
Just this morning, we were all in our small kitchen fixing breakfast. Hubby was getting ready for work, daughter and both grandchildren were preparing for their day, and we all needed to keep on schedule. Chaos reigned, and I wondered if I would ever get to my computer to work on my book that’s due on October 1, especially since I’ve reached a plot point that doesn’t seem to want to work for me. Ack! Writer’s block.
But when I finally made it to my computer, all the right words seemed eager to get on the page. I sailed past the block, maybe because being with my family loosened something inside of me. After all, no success in the writing world can match the worth of a loving family.
So, yes. I’m living my dream of being a published author. Yes, I spend many days being frantic as I trudge/gallop/limp/sprint toward my next deadline. But in the end, it’s all worth it. I love my books. I love my readers. And I love my family most of all. I wouldn’t change my life, no matter how frantic, for anything.