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Part-Time Writer

I’m sitting here having a small crisis. See, I’m feeling like maybe I don’t really belong here, writing for writers. Why? Because I’m a part-time writer. And recently, that’s been very, very part-time.

It’s been my choice, overall. Choices, rather. I have chosen to pursue a career that is not-writing. It’s not that I don’t love writing, or that I don’t think I could support myself doing that (although I have suspicions about being able to support my family, but that’s a whole different thing, and quite possibly connected back to this feeling of being an imposter in some way). It’s simply that I love science, and being a scientist, and I have been reaching life-goals this past year. However, in doing that, I’ve not been focusing on writing. You know that phenomenon where you see what you’re focusing on? The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon? Yeah, that one. The one where I’ve been focusing on being a mother, and a scientist, and recently a home-buyer and even though all those things provide fodder for the writing, today I have no brain for writing. 

For me to write, I need to immerse myself in the story, and I simply have not had the time to do that. I have great excuses – last week I was house-hunting, looking at 2-4 houses every day after work, and the week before that I was traveling for training for work and… Even this morning when I woke up at 3:30 am for some reason known only to the deity, I couldn’t write. I sat here and stared at the screen for a ridiculously long time before I started writing, and then the husband asked for coffee and the dog asked for out (and in, and out, and in. I swear she’s part cat. She left a mole on our bedroom floor for us the other morning). My concentration is shattered, and it’s not the demands on my time, it’s me.

I haven’t been able to read, either, recently. For a couple of weeks, now. I’ve been reading non-fiction, like the paper on really nifty new thermal fabric that mimics polar bear fur, and was adorably tested by giving a lab bunny a cape that made it invisible – at least to a infrared camera. I’ve been listening to a lot of non-fiction in the form of podcasts while at work. Fiction? Hasn’t been meshing with my mind for a while. Which is likely why I can’t write fiction, either. My gearing is out of sync.

I guess ‘no capes!’ doesn’t apply for this one.

This weekend I’m hoping to be able to switch gears at least a little, because we have no plans. We’ve put in an offer on a house, and even if they reject it, we know there are other houses. Quite possibly better houses. I could write reams about house-hunting, but I won’t. At least, not here. It’s been a fascinating and educational process, I will say, and I am absolutely certain bits will wind up in a story at some point. But for now, I am planning to stay home, possibly cook, and nag the kids to do their chores. I’m hoping to even pick up some fiction for pleasure reading. Maybe. I have a really cool (and huge) book on bugs I’d gotten last week that I’m looking forward to ingesting. Um. Reading. Not eating bugs.

I might not have been able to write, or draw, or paint, for the last couple of weeks, but it’s not the first time I’ve had a dry spell, and it probably won’t be the last, either. I still wonder if I should take back my writer-card to whoever issued it to me and turn it over, though. I’ve become a dilettante. I ought to be able to site myself down every evening and pound out a thousand words, but I can’t. I come home, I fall into bed, and even on a bad night when I’m up at 3 am staring at the ceiling, the stories are hauntingly elusive. I feel out of touch with my writer friends, like I’m on the outside looking in while they are productive and getting the books out. I’m not sure I can call myself a writer, any more. I might not finish a book this year, even though I feel like I’m close to the end with East Witch.

I don’t want to end up like one of those writers, coasting on years-gone-by accomplishments. I don’t want to finally get a book out, only to realize it’s not a good book. I want to write, and I can’t. I’m frustrated. But I’m also distracted, and need coffee, before I do what needs to be done today. Like cleaning off my desk, and getting boxes to the post office, and… there’s always something.

59 Comments
  1. “If we had but world enough and time…” One of the worst things about life, maybe the worst in my opinion, is that it forces us to choose things to get done, which also inevitably includes choosing things to NOT get done. You simply can’t do it ALL. Dammit.

    February 24, 2018
    • I know I can’t do it all. But I can try, darnit!

      February 24, 2018
      • If you write, you’re a writer.

        If you make money writing, you’re a pro.

        And if you’re that squirrelly right now, I guess you’ll just have to lock yourself into the bathroom with a pad of paper. Writing paper. You can’t come out until you write at least a page.

        Heh, I’m good at giving other people advice, yuppers….

        February 24, 2018
  2. Might just be a phase you’re going through. Once things get sorted out and stresses are removed you might start writing more. Best of luck in the house hunt.

    February 24, 2018
  3. Eh, stuff happens. Life intrudes. Some time periods are more productive than others. It’ll come back when things smooth out again. Meanwhile, if it’s really getting to you, try just throwing words on a page. Sit down with a notebook and a pen, and write whatever is in your head with wild abandon and no thought of anyone else ever seeing it. It’s kind of like blowing out the gaskets. Just remember, this too shall pass.

    Fingers crossed for your home offer.

    February 24, 2018
  4. Well, you could always change your writing environment . . .

    http://www.johncoxart.com/2018/02/kirkwood_1232.html

    🙂

    February 24, 2018
  5. I’ve taken to calling myself an ex-writer, not because I no longer write, but because I no longer use my output or sales to define myself. I do still write, and I have a couple of upcoming projects that I am very excited about. But it is something that I choose to do, not what I am.

    I realized some time ago that I won’t ever make any significant amount of money from writing–less than I’d make if I spent the same number of hours bussing tables at IHOP. Once I got past the feeling that this made me a failure, I find that very freeing. Now, I can do it because I want to, and not because putting food on the table requires it.

    I’m not “Misha the writer”. I am “Misha the commercial locksmith, who also writes”. And I’m okay with that.

    February 24, 2018
    • I do actually make money with my writing. It’s not an amount we could live on, but if I were able to write full time and we had the school debt paid off, that would be different. It’s more a matter of time for marketing, which I don’t have.

      February 24, 2018
  6. amiegibbons15 #

    Kinda sounds like where I’m at. Though yours might be longer. I haven’t written more than little spurts here and there on a weekend since Nov. I’m not feeling it. I can’t find it. I know where I want the book to go and I sit down to write and it just doesn’t flow.

    February 24, 2018
    • Yep. I know what the story needs, I just don’t have it in me.

      February 24, 2018
  7. Quote, “I don’t want to end up like one of those writers, coasting on years-gone-by accomplishments. I don’t want to finally get a book out, only to realize it’s not a good book.”

    Putting my cognitive behavioural therapist professional hat on for a moment, and with the caveat that I don’t know you and this is not therapy, I think you need to let that cognition go. It’s negative, non-constructive, and will not serve you well.

    February 24, 2018
    • Margaret Ball #

      Back in the bad old days of trad publishing, we used to joke that all the good parts fell out of the MS as soon as it was mailed.

      Seriously: the Writing Police are not going to take back your card! So you’re having a dry spell while other parts of are happening around you? So what? That’s worlds away from the dilettante wannabes who keep manufacturing excuses to not-write. And I’ve met some dillys! The one who decided she could only write 100 words a day. The one who “had” to go to China before she knew enough to write her fantasy novel. The one who swiched to a new shiny concept every three weeks. The ones who “can’t” work because they have jobs/ children/whatever but boy, as soon as they have unlimited leisure time and a guarantee of no interruptions, they’re gonna write a fantastic novel (and by the way, it’s gonnabe worlds better than the drek YOU publish.)

      February 24, 2018
      • Margaret Ball #

        Parts of Life.

        February 24, 2018
        • Heh. DadRed was reading about a tour and pointed out I could take it as a deduction. I pointed out that the history tour was to China. No way. That’s what ILL is for.

          February 24, 2018
    • I will try – you’re quite right that it’s not constructive. But it’s really hard not to feel like a book I’m struggling with is somehow not good. Which sucks because I liked the concept when I came up with it.

      February 24, 2018
      • Well, if you think there’s a problem with the actual book, ask your First Reader about it.

        Don’t be so down on yourself, though. You are a Cool Writer who does good work.

        February 24, 2018
      • emily61 #

        Lois Bujold called this the miserable middle.

        February 24, 2018
  8. One of the things I did after reading your *well written, funny, thought-provoking, (bunnies in snow capes?)* entry this morning was to follow a lot of the related entry links. So, I’m not a real writer because …. insert comment … is something that happens in people’s’ heads. A lot.

    After all, I came here to read your writing and your writing is on this blog and your writing was enjoyable. Your Writing. So what if it isn’t fiction during the months you are trying to buy a house and change your day job. As a lover of science myself I believe totally that your new job will result in new book constructions, maybe in five years. (That’s time to absorb the new situation and start thinking of it in a way that won’t get you sued for libel. And I made up that time amount but not the process.)

    February 24, 2018
    • I get that – the process. I have no idea on the time limit. I am very careful not to talk about work in any detail, because it’s complicated. On the other hand, yes, it will eventually seep into my work – already has, in a free short I’ve been serializing on my blog. Which I need to finish. :/

      February 24, 2018
  9. I’m sitting here having a small crisis. See, I’m feeling like maybe I don’t really belong here, writing for writers.

    Don’t be ridiculous.

    You wrote, my kids enjoy the books, I enjoy the books, you’re a writer. My dad’s a blacksmith, even though he doesn’t get to do it much– my mom is a leatherworker, and that’s less than once a week. “I need to eat” gets in the way of total dedication for those who are responsible.

    Heck, is Tolkien not an author? He made money professoring. How about Dorthy Sayers?

    And now going to read the rest of the article. 🙂

    ***

    Ooh, Baader-Meinhof. That one annoys me so much, because too many people are familiar with it– and apply it to EVERYTHING.
    When I pointed out that red minivans are the most common*, everyone assured me I was just noticing them more.
    Folks have tried to tell my mom that there AREN’T a lot of big red pickups– when she’s had things like telling the kid helping with groceries that sure, could he please take them out and just throw them in the back of the big red pickup, she’ll finish up the papers here….then she goes out and he’s staring at three different pickups. Out of the five pickups there, and the twenty cars.

    *after spending three months counting every van I met while driving that was not parked (to avoid “two neighbors have red minivans” type things) and finding that there were half again as many red as white, roughly as many “metallic” as white, slightly fewer black and then shades of blue followed by green and a couple of purple-ish ones.

    *****

    You’ve gone “weeks.” Not counting the blogging, here– and if C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton’s writing for papers but not doing books counts, then so does blogging. Without writing “much.”

    Meanwhile, you are completely turning your life upside down.

    Buck up! It’s just that nasty little drath chewing at you– self-doubt, and inaccurate self-doubt at that!

    February 24, 2018
    • (the word ‘drath’ is an explaining link; here is another)

      February 24, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      Ah. You also read that web comic. Ever hear of Moe Lane? He’s the guy who first pointed me at it.

      February 24, 2018
      • Nope, ran into some of the comics she did earlier that died due to lack of “now where?”

        February 24, 2018
    • Luke #

      That’s weird.
      It’s rare that I see a minivan that isn’t some sort of grey.

      February 24, 2018
      • There is probably some kind of a regional tendency– I notice that down here, there seem to be a lot more “I think that use to be blue, gray or silver” minivans.

        I haven’t repeated my counting test, though, because the drivers are just too dang dangerous. You’ll randomly run into people who drive 40-45mph EVERWHERE– it’s a school zone? 40. It’s a 30 zone? 45. It’s the freeway? 45. And they’ll be totally random about which lane they’re in.

        February 24, 2018
        • Dorothy Grant #

          Regional differences: There’s one massive color difference in moving from Alaska to Texas: in Alaska, many if not most vehicles are in dark colors. This makes perfect sense, especially if you’re parked outside in winter, because any stray bit of warmth helps clear the ice and snow off your truck…and black is one of the cheapest colors to order for a work truck.

          In Texas, many of not most of vehicles are white or light coloured. Which is also a very cheap color for work trucks, and more importantly, reflects some of the sunlight and heat when it’s 114 degrees outside and the only shade for 6 blocks was already taken.

          Also, many trucks in Alaska have 2-inch lift kits compared to the Lower 48… but that’s because the lift kit contains the components that wear out on the suspension, for cheaper than the OEM replacements + shipping to AK. So shops offer lift kits as a standard option for suspension repair.

          Meanwhile , many trucks in Texas have cattle guards compared to AK. I live in ranch country, so this is definitely regional work requirements and fashion accessory, not simply noticing it more.

          Being able to tell the difference between noticing something more and it actually occurring more helps put little details in that ground a story in time and place.

          February 24, 2018
          • There’s social aspects, too– Seattle has a lot of people who are, well, embarrassed to be driving a non-cool car.

            Red can be a slight salve on the “wow, this is SO not cool” reaction. (as the song 1985 put it, “her yellow SUV/is now the enemy”– yellow and SUV being two other options, but minivans aren’t usually offered in yellow, while red is a standard color)

            So a lot of red minivans sell, very well.

            February 24, 2018
        • emily61 #

          In Montgomery, AL most of the cars were white. Also most were pickups. Makes sense. AL is a farming state.

          February 24, 2018
  10. Is this not writing?

    February 24, 2018
    • Terry Sanders #

      Are we not men?

      February 24, 2018
      • Terry Sanders #

        Sorry. That just jumped out.

        February 24, 2018
        • Lol. Can’t speak for anyone else, but I am not a man.

          February 24, 2018
          • I’m gonna go out on a limb and say First Reader is OK with that.

            February 24, 2018
          • Christopher M. Chupik #

            Some of our enemies would disagree. 😉

            February 24, 2018
        • As if devolution were not a thing.(Totally aware that current kids have no idea whatsoever of what we’re talking about.)

          February 24, 2018
          • Dorothy Grant #

            I was trying to figure out if it was a Island of Dr. Moreau reference, or… and now Devo is stuck in my head.

            February 24, 2018
            • Embrace the power of AND. 🙂

              February 24, 2018
            • emily61 #

              I thought it was part of Shylock’s speech in Merchant of Venice.

              February 24, 2018
      • We are Devo!

        February 24, 2018
  11. Christopher M. Chupik #

    Invisible bunnies.

    My God.

    February 24, 2018
  12. Cedar, you are starting, not a new job, but a whole new career. Plus husband who’s still a bit new, three kids, and house hunting! I’m not surprised your brain is too full to do the writing just now.

    But I strongly suspect that when you are more at ease with work, and you’ve moved into the place that will be home for a long time, your subconscious will flex it’s muscles and the stories it’s been thinking up will come pouring out.

    February 24, 2018
    • A new job definitely changes one’s mental landscape. The focus it requires is more than you know. Even if it all seems obvious and clear, which is not typically the case, you haven’t done some part of it 15 times and seen it come out just fine. Each time you take on a task it’s new. You’re learning so much. School is just the start of learning. All the newness completely messes with the writing. I knew how to be a student, and I wrote in my teens and college. Then I didn’t start writing again until I’d been at my job for about five years. Then I got a new job and pregnant. My kids were two and I said to myself “life is full enough. Just hang it up on the writing and enjoy the reading.” I think they were eight when I started writing again. Once you’re at ease in your new situation the stories will come sneaking back. Really.

      Given how much you’ve written and the good habits you’ve developed, I’m sure it will all be quicker for you than it was for me.

      February 24, 2018
    • I can attest to this. It’s been three years of very sporadic writing. Two kids, a house and a marriage happened in those three years (not necessarily in that order) along with several rounds of crazy medical stuff and The-house-broke-scrap-all-other-plans that usually happen the first few years of owning a place. (And are probably magnified because we bought a double wide.) But we’re catching up and as the crazy eases… the writing comes back. Dry spells happen.

      February 24, 2018
  13. Draven #

    I have a funny response but it might be taken the wrong way.

    February 24, 2018
  14. Brett Baker #

    You’re kinda busy to write. And did not Pournelle say, “I like having written, just not actually writing?”🤔

    February 24, 2018
  15. Sounds like you’re too busy to write. Me too. Happens all the time.

    I still have my official, Sarah Hoyt signed Real Writer Certificate though, so it is all good. ~:D

    Eventually, I’ll figure out what happens and pound it out on the keyboard. I can wait.

    February 24, 2018
    • Ooh! That’s very nice. Not everyone gets one of those.

      February 24, 2018
      • It was really hard for me to get. I had to download it off According to Hoyt, and then forge her signature. But now I am a Real Writer, so it was all worth it. ~:D

        I still haven’t published anything, but it will be Real Soon Now! Just like fusion!

        February 24, 2018
      • See the link at the end of your article up there that says You’re Real? Follow it to the certificate from According to Hoyt. That’s what I meant way up above when I said lots of people seem to wonder if they are writers…

        February 24, 2018
  16. c4c

    February 24, 2018
  17. Christopher M. Chupik #

    I know the feeling. This last week I was suffering from something that kept me from getting a full night’s sleep and I got very little writing done. It happens.

    February 24, 2018
  18. I was chaperoning students All Day (0745 – 1745). I managed to read a few ancient history articles, and to do four paragraphs of background for the sequel to Of Merchant and Magic. I consider that a major accomplishment, given everything else that was going on! (I was the anchor-adult: stay in one place and everyone checks in and out, gets schedule updates and messages, collects money for food, hands out food, counts heads and makes certain no one is getting into mischief.)

    February 24, 2018
  19. If every writer/artist who hit what they think is a dry spell turned in their cards we’d have little to read or look upon in awe.

    February 25, 2018
  20. lfox328 #

    I’m writing a book that references that phenomenon (one very small part of one scene) – can I use your name in the book as the person that supplies that information?

    February 26, 2018
  21. lfox328 #

    I’ve hit dry spells before – I just came out of a very big one this week. Some of that was life interfering, but some of it was in-the-back-of-my-mind concerns about my book.

    I like to think of it as creative loafing – it will pay off, but you just can’t know when or how.

    Exercise does help – try walking even short distances.

    February 26, 2018
    • Yes. Once we stop having floodwaters, walking is a must.

      February 26, 2018
  22. Whenever you get the fiction bug again, I hope another Scarlet Tanager tale is in the offing. I rally enjoyed the first one.

    March 1, 2018

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