Please forgive the cheesy Shakespeare reference. It’s just that I’ve been feeling a little Hamlet-y lately. You know, troubled, indecisive, grumpy. . .borderline insane.
Actually, I feel much better after making a very difficult decision. I am taking a vacation from writing. A sabbatical. A breather. I’m going to look at my situation in January and re-evaluate.
I’m sure, since you are passionately interested in all of my activities and decisions, that you want to know why I would do such a thing after plugging away steadily for five years. I can give you some very credible reasons.
See, I’m a mommy. I just started homeschooling my oldest son. (That alone would be reason enough.) We signed up for Cub Scouts. He’s playing soccer. All of these things are going to make it murder to get to my critique group meetings. Plus it’s football season here in this college town, and you know the Holidays are coming up. . .
Are you convinced yet? Some of you are, but I can see you writers out there shaking your head “no.” If you’re a writer, none of these things would be enough for you to go cold turkey for the next four months. And they’re not enough of a reason for me, either. But maybe they should be.
Ah, see, now we’re getting to the heart of the matter.
Time for a flashback. A vivid memory of a conversation I had with my much beloved and respected sister-in-law. It was when my youngest son was about five months old. It was getting late and our respective families had gone to bed, but we had stayed up talking. I was telling her about my writing goals for the upcoming year, and I said something like, “Sometimes I wish I could just be a regular mommy with no writing projects to worry about.” She looked at me like I was crazy. To her, it was pretty clear — if I wanted to be a mommy with no literary entanglements, I could be. What was the problem?
You writers understand. You know what it means to decide you’re going to write. Even if you slow down or encounter obstacles, you keep going. Writer becomes part of your definition. And I’m sure you also understand that sometimes it would be easier if you didn’t have characters making conversation in your head while you’re trying to pay bills/bathe your children/fix dinner/(insert routine task here).
But for months now — maybe even longer — I’ve questioned whether writing was a good use of my time. My time doesn’t belong to me, after all, and I want to make sure I’m spending it well. And when I focus on my writing, I feel very selfish.
Every time I’ve talked to my friends about this, they’ve said, “Well, everyone has their hobbies. Some people play golf, some people collect Star Wars figures. You write.” (I know some writers who would be offended at having their writing referred to as a hobby, but I never have been. Until I gain the credibility that comes along with publishing, I feel like it is “just” a hobby. That doesn’t mean I don’t take it seriously.)
I also hear a lot of people saying that having my “own” thing makes me a better mommy/wife/etc. I’m not really sure I buy that. Even if I did, it’s not like this is the only interest there is for me to pursue. I have an unfinished childbirth educator certification that’s been in limbo for several months. Not to mention sewing projects.
The point is that I have become too focused on my writing and on being a writer — reading, blogging, listening to podcasts, doing whatever I could to feed that aspect of who I am. I’ve been losing my focus on things that matter more. The fact is, I have kind of an obsessive personality. I tend to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all else, and I have to work hard to keep myself in check.
I’ve prayed about it a LOT. I’ve asked for God’s help in deciding what to do. (What I really wanted was some clear cut sign: I’m gonna lay my manuscript on the table before I go to bed. If you want me to keep writing, God, please let the manuscript be dry in the morning while the table all around it is wet. ) Instead, He has given me good, godly friends who’ve listened to my concerns. It’s amazing when several people who you respect all give you essentially the same advice.
In addition to the counsel I’ve received, it was right after I started praying about this question again — “Should I be writing?” — That I undertook the third revision of my novel. If you’ve read any of my recent entries, you know how that has gone.
I’ve also considered a few reasons why I might not want to take a break now. This blog is one. Because I thought I was fairly close to finishing my novel, I thought it was a good time to start networking a little, maybe create a web presence. It seems a shame to put that effort to waste.
This reason is a little funnier: I finally took subscriptions to Writer’s Digest and The Writer after not getting them for Christmas or birthday gifts for the last several years. So I’ll be getting both of those, along with the Poets & Writers subscription that my darling husband signed me up for as a Valentine’s gift. (Or was it Mother’s Day? — I can’t remember — but what a husband I have. He has been so wonderfully supportive of my dream.)
Another reason not to quit or take a break is that I’m afraid of disappointing people. My friends who think it’s cool that I’m following my dream. Or long time crit circle — we’ve grown quite close. I don’t want anyone to think I’m wimping out. I’ve always been very concerned — too concerned — about what people think of me.
And what about all the time, money, and energy I’ve spent up until now? Won’t they all go to waste if I quit now? I guess in one sense they would, but in a bigger sense, because I’ve learned so much about the world and about myself, and I’ve made so many good friends, I can’t call it a waste.
And I don’t know yet if this is THE END of Laura the writer. I strongly suspect not.
This is the thing — I have to know that I can give it up if I need to. I can’t allow anything in my life that is more important than serving the Lord. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
I know that it’s possible to bring glory to God through my writing. I hope that I give Him glory in everything I do — that’s what I’m here for. But the truth is, my primary motivation for writing is that I want to.
I sincerely hope and will continue to pray that this time away from it will give me some clarity, will help me decide what I need to do when January rolls around. I hope I feel like I’m able to come back to it, because I don’t want to quit. It’s been an arduous and tearful decision. Most of all, I hope that if I decide that writing can’t be part of my life, I’ll have the courage and grace to accept it.
If you want to contact me, I’ll still be notified of any comments posted to this blog, and you are more than welcome to e-mail me through the link in the sidebar. And I’m pretty sure I’ll still be blogging some here while my writing is on hiatus.
And I’ve written all of this without crying, which means I’ve made a pretty big breakthrough.
If you’ve stuck with me and read this whole post, I sincerely thank you for your dedication. If you weren’t already there, you are now officially added to my list of very good friends.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Mt 16:24-26)