Turning sixty kicked my butt.
I’m not certain why. Birthdays have never held much significance to me, and anyone who knows me knows I am more likely to forget my birthday than to celebrate it.
But sixty? It started me thinking. Time was slipping away. Twenty years goes by in the blink of an eye, and before you know it, the kids are busy living their own lives and your husband is just months from retirement.
This reflection was exacerbated by my writing schedule this year. In the first four months of this year, I wrote two novellas and a novel. Three sets of characters to contend with, three plots to figure out and thousands of words in sixteen short weeks. After I finished, it took me a couple of months to stop feeling like a zombie, but it also convinced me it was time for a change. I started by asking myself a series of hard questions, the type of questions that made you really dig deep for an answer, and they needed an honest answer.
First, why do I write?
Everyone has a different reason for wanting to be a writer. Some do it out of pure joy of creating stories while others see it as a possible career. Or maybe you’re a natural storyteller or you like to come up with new twists for the books you’ve read or TV shows you watch. Whatever the reason, you need to figure out if it’s important enough to keep writing. If you can’t imagine your life without writing, then go on to the next question. But if writing really isn’t that important or you’re exhausted after years of writing, take a break, and reevaluate the situation in six months.
What do I expect from my writing?
This is an important question and one I wished I’d figured out before I’d signed my first contract. What do you expect out of a writing career? A published book? Or maybe you’re hoping to turn this into a full-time paying position? Do you write stories just for the joy it brings to you and others? Or is it simply a way for you to glorify God? It’s important to figure this out so that you can get a handle your expectations. When I was first published, my expectation was that my writing would be the career I always hoped for. After injury had put an end to my nursing career, I always longed for something to call my own. Writing books felt like the opportunity to do that. But with family and church obligations, and with my own health issues, my full-time work became a part-time job. I struggled with that for a long time until I finally made peace with the fact that God had given me my dream job and I was blessed to be published in the first place. Maintaining your expectations will save you a lot of angst throughout your writing career.
How much am I willing to give up to follow this dream?
A writing career isn’t without its sacrifices. Deadlines and commitments can take a bite out of your personal life at times. Remember the three novellas/novel I wrote from Christmas to May 1? There were days I wrote from seven in the morning to midnight was short breaks to go to church and check in with my family. It was only when my grandson asked if we were ever going to go to the park again, that I decided I needed to make some changes. I wasn’t willing to give up time with my family, my friends, and other ministries that I felt led to do in order to write.
So what is the take away from all this?
At the beginning of this year, our church gave each member a rock and told us to write our word of the year on it. Mine was balance. Since then, I’ve worked hard to shift my expectations regarding my writing to what I really want in my life – a work/family/play balance. Taking the time to pray over these three questions and being totally honest with myself has given me a new outlook on my writing and a happy medium. With the changes I’ve instilled, I’ve found more time to spend with family and friends while still honoring God through my writing.
Multi-published author Patty Smith Hall lives near the North Georgia Mountains with her husband, Danny, two daughters, a son-in-law, and her grandboys. When she’s not writing on her back porch, she’s spending time with her family or playing with her grandsons.