Monday, October 29, 2012

Juggling While Walking the Tightrope

I'm a romance writer. Not published yet, but I put in just as many hours in the chair as a published writer because I treat this dream like a job. I act like a professional and I expect to be treated with equal professional courtesy by other people in this industry as well as in the "real" world.

Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you is a good manifesto to live by.

As I write and pursue this dream of publication, I am blown away by the myriad of real life issues that published and unpublished romance writers face. Let's face it, the majority of romance writers are women. The word woman means that regardless of where we are in our writing careers, we have a multitude of other tasks and jobs to perform because of our gender.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying that male writers don't have many of these demands, but by virtue of their gender they can compartmentalize these different tasks more easily. I'm actually quite jealous of that ability.

OK, so back to romance writers. And especially women writers. I'll use me for the most part as a living example.

In the past two weeks I have been working diligently on my revisions for the editor. But I'm not just a writer, I'm a mother, a wife, a friend. And then some... and with these other roles comes other challenges. I think these challenges confront most of my friends in the writing world. They're juggling writing careers, other jobs, families, relationships while they're generating new stories.

Let me tell you folks, it's tough to generate a story when your College Kid's university emergency center calls you to ask where your College Kid is because she is supposed to come in for follow up work. Full on Momma Red Alert and Defcom a Gazillion hits all nerves. This momma's doing recon and emergency dialing for three hours. She's juggling two doctors' offices, a husband who wants to be kept in the loop, and a daughter who is hurting and doesn't know why.

Momma is not writing stories during this time. I can't. Could you? Could you turn off your emergency parental alert system and write? Fortunately, the emergency room doctor told me that I could step down my alert system to yellow and go into a holding pattern. Let's see, that was Wednesday. Good thing I always write a bit in the morning before I go to the gym which salvaged part of the day.

Thursday morning I get home and there's a call from a friend that I've just spent a wonderful time with at a winery. I did a little job for her (generated some RWA Conference moola) on the side so I thought it was about that little job. No. Unfortunately not. Bad news. Stinky rotten news about a friend in another city who just passed away that morning. So many years had passed since we'd seen him and his wife, but we were close during those early dating and marital years. We were close when we were starting our families. We didn't stop caring for each other because we moved, we just got busy with being responsible citizens in different corners of the world.

Now this woman writer begins chasing down information. When is the funeral? Where? What day? What time? I'm emailing mutual friends and checking out the local paper's obituaries for information. I'm texting and emailing three people to find out the information because this person was important to me and my husband. We care and we are sad. So that took some time, but it was time well spent. Original plans go out the door, fly out the window, leave the building. New plans are quickly made. Real world trumps writer's world in these situations.

Now in all of this, the College Kid still needs me to be available. So I'm grocery shopping in our new Walmart when the cell rings. I have a pretty strict policy about not taking calls in public places except when I hear the College Kid's ring tone. She's been sick and we still don't know why. So I take her calls. Even my husband takes her calls at work. She's our number one priority. Always will be. We chatted (I mostly listened) while I cruised the produce section.

All this is just my world. But I know so many other women who are juggling complicated situations and lives while they're generating new stories, revising old stories, attending writer conferences, leading chapter meetings. We're women who have multiple roles. We juggle them all while walking a tightrope between the writer's world and the real world.

Despite all of these interruptions and real world events, I did finish my third round revisions and layered in more story elements. Because I'm a professional. And I treat this dream like a job.

Why? Because at the end of my days I want to be able to say I did my best. The results may not be what I had hoped for because this industry is fickle and changes on a dime and who knows? I may never get it "right." But no matter what happens, I will be able to look into my mirror and have no regrets.

And that's what it is about for me.

What will you say to yourself at the end of your days?

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