Monday, June 12, 2006

PH: Guarding the Freelance Life

I have on occasion the chance to peek into the lives of new writers. It’s given me some time to mull over why some writers break into the full time freelance life at such a speedy pace. There are many factors, like a great idea at just the moment a publisher is looking for such an idea. Then there are those who are brilliant at navigating the publishing network. But some are great at the first factor, lousy at the second, and vice-versa, and still they manage to keep a book contract in tow. The common thread I see in all successful writers is in how they guard their writer’s life.

These are the people that in a circle of friends enjoying coffee might not be adept at chiming in on talk of the latest TV shows or celebrity gossip. (To vilify TV show names in America’s media culture is like picking on someone’s child, so I’ll refrain.) My first mentor who today is still a best-selling novelist doesn’t have cable TV. For the writers that do have cable TV, though, they don’t allow it to dominate their time. You might find them propped up on the sofa with a latte in front of the tube, but in their lap is a laptop, or a pen and page proofs, or research books. But each writer builds the life they want by giving up something.

When I started writing my first book, the week I received my first contract was also the week my hubby hauled into the living room three sweet children in need of long term care. In addition to our own three, ages twelve to two, three more kids was a load. The baby had attachment issues and a stomach disorder that caused him to cry well into the early morning hours. We had planned and sacrificed to be debt free so that I could come home and build a full time writing career. To have the tables turn on me so suddenly seemed like God was messing with me. I invited a young single woman to move in with us for that season and she took on the task of sitting up with the baby until he fell asleep. But I still had all of the others to care for and a book to write.

I’m not good at writing with any noise at all, not like some writers that peck away with the earphones on. My only choice was to get up at three in the morning when everyone was sleeping. I wrote until dawn and did that for six months, almost exactly the length of time we cared for those children.

It taught me that I didn’t have to have the perfect circumstances to write. It also helped me to build some disciplinary muscles, to be aware of the down time of my family so that I could grab some up time at my computer.

Success is not about having a New York Times bestselling book, but about building the life you want. If you want a freelance life, something’s got to go.

Patricia Hickman’s freelance life includes writing, speaking, teaching small groups and also having one nice sit down meal with her family each evening. Not perfection, but progress.


At 7:07 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

For writing, I gave up cable years ago, never miss it. I rarely watch tv at all, in fact we've gone to war and I've not known it. The things we do for love...

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Patricia Hickman said...

Our youngest grew up without it. He's our deepest kid. We had reading nights instead of TV and the kids thought it was so much fun.


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