© Marta Stephens 2008 all rights reserved
In the year since my first book was published, I’ve been interviewed a number of times and asked a multitude of questions by readers and aspiring writers. Two questions stand out in my mind.
How much does luck have to do with writing success?
Luck? Are we to believe that achieving a goal – a dream is as unpredictable as a coin toss? Success doesn’t fall from heaven—you make it. You work it – hard and not just when the mood strikes you. Don’t think for a minute that anyone is going to hand it to you.
The second question relates to when I find time to write. I work full time outside the home. I’m married with two children in college and my husband and I both care for our parents. We live in a large home in the historic section of town that has been a fantastic place to raise our children, has given us endless gardening pleasure, and is still a wonderful gathering place for family and friends—especially during the holidays.
I love to cook and have spoiled my family with homemade meals seven days a week from day one – okay, so we won’t count the occasional hot dogs and chips nights.
This October will mark our 21st year in this house. The first 17 years I spent nearly every weeknight catching up with household chores, doing laundry, and helping the kids with homework. Countless weekends were spent painting and/or papering walls, stripping layers of paint from the hardwood, ripping out carpeting, sewing curtains, and dealing with the handymen who came to our rescue when something went terribly wrong. I’ve spent untold hours scrubbing down surfaces and planting new flower beds. I’ve driven my children to ball game practices, dance rehearsals, school dances, and attended every science fair, play, and orchestra recital they were in from K-12.
And then ... in the spring of 2003, I caught the writing bug. Life didn’t change right away. At first, I used to work writing into my schedule much like I would a hobby. I set it aside and picked it up as time permitted. But the more I learned, the more I enjoyed it, therefore the more I wrote and the more I wanted to learn. My writing time quickly moved up a notch on my list of priorities and things like television got dropped from my schedule. Now that I have one book published and the second book on its way, writing has become my second job. Yes a job. It’s a passion, but it’s every bit as critical to me—my future, as my day job. Therefore I treat it as such.
If you’re serious about writing, my best advice is: Organize your time, prioritize the tasks, establish a schedule, and delegate, delegate, delegate. The first thing I had to admit to myself was that I couldn’t write and continue to do all the things that I had been accustomed to doing. Eventually I learned to say: “No.” I’ve gotten quite good at it now.
The day job is a must. It pays for my paper, ink cartridges, and the postage I use to mail out review copies of SILENCED CRY. It also helps pay for little things like the mortgage on this big old house and all the things that make it a home. However, I can still take control of my time: Weekends are chore and errand days, but I don’t drag either out into an all day affair. I usually have several places to go, like the bank, the grocery story, and the dry cleaners. I get the running around done in one shot, come home and quickly clean the downstairs—deep cleaning? What’s that? The next day, I clean the upstairs.
Everyone in my family knows how to run the sweeper and my favorite small kitchen appliance is my crock-pot; better it cook all day than me. Our son is in charge of the trash detail, mows the lawn when it’s not covered with snow and ice, and walks the dogs; my daughter helps in the kitchen. Dare I say it? She’s a better cook now than I am.
So the question remains: When do I write? It all depends on where I am in my writing. For the most part, on weekends I like to get up early in the morning before anyone stirs, fix a pot of coffee, check my e-mails and write for a couple of hours. I’ll often do some more writing in the afternoon and/or evenings. During the week, I put in four to five hours after dinner. I dedicate that time to writing, research, reading, networking, and/or marketing/promotion.
Everyone is different. What has worked for me, may not work for someone else. Each person needs to find the method and schedule that works best for them. My house isn’t as spotless as it used to be and granted, the weeds in the flower beds did get a little out of hand last summer, but it’s still home, and I couldn’t ask for a more supportive family who lets me indulge in my passion.
So what’s my point? The key to success in any venture is dedication and consistency. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Prioritize your tasks and establish a schedule you can adhere to. You can come up with a million excuses for why you can’t sit down and write that first chapter today. Unfortunately, time will pass regardless of your action and at the end of a year or two you could either be signing your books or making another excuse for why you never got started.
No luck to it ... the choice is yours.
The SILENCED CRY book cover is eligible for the 2007 Cover of the Year award. Voting ends April 15. Every voter will be entered in a drawing for the winning title.
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