As a part-time novelist, there’s one thing I dream of all the time: finishing. I am really looking forward to that golden moment when the last edit is in, the cover art is approved, the copy is formatted and my little book is launched. Oh, but there’s a long time to go, because the fiction writer who juggles many other things can only make progress so quickly. Sometimes I feel frustrated, like a racehorse champing at the bit in the starting gate (or, maybe, in my case, the old farm nag eager to get back to the barn and that tasty bag of oats).
I’m pretty sure many of my fellow fiction writers feel the same way. We must find ways to cope.
Make incremental progress
How do you eat an elephant? Same as anything else: one bite at a time.
Don’t expect to, or even try, to knock out huge swaths of your opus at one time. Write a little here, a little there. One kind writer told me she writes whenever a little sliver of time presents itself; for example, when she’s stuck at a train stop or a long light, she writes a few lines.
You can try the squeeze-it-in approach, or you can just set aside small amounts of time each day or week to enjoy the craft. I’ve another literary buddy with a busy job and a very demanding home life, who spends his lunch hour writing and he’s cranking out a good 60 pages every two weeks – not bad.
I suggest you keep a spreadsheet or other record of how many words or pages you create in each working session, with a cumulative total based on that. It’s very encouraging to watch your progress mount up. Sooner later, you’ll be done!
I’m staring at the heading just above this line and thinking, “Okay… how?” Writing fiction part-time is often an unsettling experience. You want to go, go, to, but you just can’t. Having patience is the ability to calmly endure that feeling.
After reflecting on the matter a bit, I have to conclude the best way to boost your patience is to remember that you are in this situation by choice. You have decided to include many other things in your life. Nobody made you do it. Besides, you probably made those choices because they are advantageous for you and yours. So remind yourself of this, take a deep breath, and endure.
You are performing the part-time fiction writer’s juggling act. Congratulations and welcome to the club. I hope you enjoy the juggling, because that’s the most important thing of all. Sure, you’re on the slow boat to China (or wherever), but the beauty of a slow boat is that you get to savor the ride.
There are all kinds of reasons to write – a deep-seated psychological need, a philosophical axe to grind, the hope of fortune and fame – and those are all fine, but if you ask me, the main reason for the part-time writer to keep going is enjoyment of the writing process itself. You sit down at the keyboard or notebook when you can, not knowing if anyone besides you will ever see the results, and you do it because it’s just fun.
Writing fiction is hard. If you don’t enjoy it? Why bother?
Speaking of enjoyment, if you liked this post, check out the related ones:
The Part-Time Fiction Writer’s Juggling Act – Part 1
The Part-Time Fiction Writer’s Juggling Act – Part 2
The Part-Time Fiction Writer’s Juggling Act – Part 3