I am currently sitting on the floor of a mostly empty closet, typing these words out on a laptop I bought in 2010 (it is, as of writing, 2019). I’m afraid the thing is going to explode or melt or something. There is a mug half full of coffee next to me, which won’t be any help if this machine bursts into flames, but at least it will keep me alert.
It’s almost midnight. My alarm will go off in five hours.
This is not a scene I often repeat. It just happens to be the one that’s playing out right now.
If I’m being honest — and honesty, it turns out, is the theme of my year — I feel absolutely awful. I should have been in bed hours ago. But I’m behind on my work, and my dog wouldn’t go to sleep, and I — the one who is supposedly immune to the effects of caffeine judging by how often she drinks it and how much she consumes per sitting — had too much coffee and I don’t know what that’s going to mean for my sleep cycle.
I tell you all this because I feel the need to be real with you. Sometimes the writing life is just as glamorous as you always hope it will be. And sometimes you’re on the floor sweating trying to write a blog post and you’re desperately trying to remind yourself you’re not actually having a panic attack and you woke up at 4:30 this morning what the heck have you been doing all day?
The truth is, writing is, 95 percent of the time, not at all glamorous. It would be, if we could all write inside our own personal bubbles — soundproof bubbles, bubbles that locked from the inside, ones only we had access to and no one could reach us in once we stepped inside.
We writers exist in a world not built for writers, and we must learn to thrive in it.
Which means we are going to have to put up with a lot of unpleasant things if we want to make success out of our words.
Writing, being a writer, isn’t all bad. Of course it isn’t. Sometimes, it just doesn’t feel great.
I don’t know about you. But I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to get things done.
Whatever it takes. It’s not just a line from the current highest-grossing film of all time. It’s one of the many mantras I use to push myself creatively whenever I’m close to running out of steam.
Often, “whatever it takes” means putting my reading goals on hold. Not watching TV no matter how much I want to. Giving up exercise sometimes, even though that’s bad for me mentally and physically.
I haven’t always set the best example of what a “balanced” writing life should look like. I very rarely get eight hours of sleep. I don’t usually eat three meals a day. Some nights I stay up late writing when I’m not on deadline, and others I curl up with the trashiest TV show I can find when I should technically be writing instead.
A lot of the time, I write when I’m not in the best mood or in the best emotional state. Sometimes I rush through things to get them done and make more mistakes than I otherwise would. I avoid proofreading whenever possible.
More often than not, I choose quantity over quality when I’m working on my own projects.
I used to worry that being honest about my processes and preferences as a writer would make me look like a hypocrite. If I didn’t “practice what I preached,” that had to mean I was doing something wrong. But maybe it’s my perspective that has been wrong all this time.
The whole point of this blog is to help writers figure out how to get their writing done. This in no way means to imply that I know everything there is to know about writing or that my way of doing things is the only way. In fact, the message I’m always trying to send is that as a writer you should feel free to do things however you want to do them AS LONG AS your way works for you and doesn’t harm anyone else in the process.
So yeah. Maybe I don’t do things the way I always think they should be done. Maybe I’m not perfect, and am still learning wha work-life balance looks like for me. Maybe the fact that I can’t take my own advice just means I’m a stereotypical struggling artist trying to find my way in the world. Can you really fault me for that?
At least for right now, I’m probably going to continue doing many things the way I wouldn’t recommend anyone else do them. I’m struggling to get my writing done, and that means I might have to go to some extremes (within reason) to make sure I don’t fall any further behind.
One day I hope to be able to look back on all this and tell you how I overcame my struggles. I hope I can get through the long nights and early mornings and every change likely to knock me off my feet in the months to come. I hope that I can keep writing no matter how challenging it might get. I hope the writing stays good and I hope I stay good too.
Just because creative endeavors require sacrifices doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it. I don’t think it’s possible to be happy all the time, even doing what you love, because it’s not possible to be happy all the time period. You’re going to have some late nights. You’re going to have to cancel your scheduled phone call with your long distance BFF for the second time in a row because you need to get one more thing done. You’re going to have to do some things you’d rather not.
You just have to do all this knowing you’re going to have to take some time off later. When the rough times pass. When you can afford it. When you couldn’t possibly push yourself any further than you are right now.
I’m doing the best I know how to do. I hope you’re doing the same. Your best, after all, is all you need to give.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.