Something that I remind myself of periodically is that even successful writers often only get about one book out a year. I know this because so many of the authors I love keep to about that timeline.
Kameron Hurley, for example, works full-time like me and still manages to have cranked out six books since 2010, along with a startling array of novellas and short fiction. Her book a year reminds me that I, too, can do it if I put my mind to the accomplishment. On the other hand, of course, you have forces of nature like Seanan McGuire, who, since her break-out novel in 2009 has published an astonishing 27 books. That averages to about 3 and a half every year. These women inspire me to do better, to write more, to strike a hard balance.
I am conscious that I, also, am an inspiration to someone. This is comforting on days when I feel that I cannot accomplish anything because so many things want my attention.
I published my first book, since taken down for editing, in 2013. I had been working on that book since 2009. It wasn’t ready to go up, but it taught me a great deal. I have since written thousands of words, including Mother of Creation and two unpublished novellas as well as editing an unpublished novel something like a thousand times, which I pitch to traditional publishers as time permits. I have a trunk of short stories, some of which have received good reviews from editors, though none have yet found a home. I am about two thirds of the way through Daughter of Madness. I have done all of these things while attending graduate school, job hunting, and finally holding down a full-time job. I am, by these counts, a writer.
Recently, I don’t just say I’m a writer. I feel like one. Making time for writing, while it puts additional pressure on me, reminds me that this is a part of who I am. It’s not something I can just stop being.
Instead of being anxious and upset that I’m not writing, I remind myself that I will be writing tomorrow. That I will sit down in my cafe and put on my headphones and dip into another world, shaping it and creating it. That has done wonders for my stress levels and my productivity.
There are still so many things that try to pull me away from this part of my life. The job. My family and friends. The chores needed to make a house run. Volunteering. Planning a wedding. The internet. Even hobbies like reading and watching shows. They’re all things I need. They’re all things that make me who I am and it’s not a contest. For me to be me, I must do all of it. I must bring it all into balance, and really, isn’t that what we are all striving for? Balance?
Balance, to me, is probably the hardest skill and also the easiest. Once you find balance, life becomes easier, but finding and holding onto balance in a changing world is massively difficult. My competing wants can pull one another down as easily as they push one another up. And yet, when I strike that balance, however briefly, I am happier. My writing is better, my mood is better, I am a better lover and friend. It’s worth striving for, however elusive. It’s worth remembering that producing words takes something out of us, and that the well isn’t endless. Our profligacy is directly dependent on our ability to feed it.
The next time that you are down and out about something you want to accomplish, remember that no one does it easily. We are all balancing our own plates, overburdened with bounty as they sometimes are. The task is to walk in balance. That seems easy to say, and harder to do. It is both of those things. No one can tell you what balance will work for you, but find one that does. Compare yourself to others for inspiration, if it helps.
If it doesn’t, throw those comparisons out the window. Your writing, your act of creation, your passions – they don’t belong to anyone else. They belong to you.