My love-hate relationship with writing

By PD Martin

I wrote this post before I saw Gar’s post yesterday – amazing synchronicity we have here at Murderati sometimes…

I’ve realised over the past few months that I have an ‘unusual’ relationship to my writing.  Or perhaps it’s pretty normal…you tell me. In some ways how writing makes me feel and my attitude towards it are contradictory. A love-hate relationship.

On the one hand, I love writing. I don’t get much time at the computer these days as a full-time mum to a young toddler, but the time I do get I cherish. I covet. I get cranky if something stands in the way of my writing day. My basic routine now is one full writing day (my husband works four days a week) and 1 hour on the other four days of the week during Liam’s naps.

The end of last year and the start of this year saw my limited writing time crunched even more…my daughter’s birthday, school holidays (21 December to 31 January here), Christmas, New Year, and our beach holiday. Three out of the first four weeks down at the beach I didn’t have my writing day (my husband was still working and commuting). At this point I was frustrated. Cranky, even. I needed to write. Finally on 11 January I had my first full writing day. And I wrote 7,500 words. Not surprisingly, I was pretty happy with that word count, and the words themselves. It made me realise how much I’d missed writing. It literally gushed out of me. And like Gar, I’m currently writing a story I want to write. I’m loving writing it and seeing how the characters and plot unfold. And while I do hope it’s commercially viable (which, of course, is code for a best seller), it’s probably not the best story to write from a business/marketing perspective. It’s a different genre (again) for a start!

Now, we’re still on the love part of my relationship with writing…I do love writing. I do.  But sometimes I feel hypocritical because I don’t write at night. Problem is, usually I’m just too plain tired to sit at the computer. I find a day as a full-time mother much more tiring than a day at a full-time job. Plus, this is my time with my husband. Our time to sit back and have a nice dinner and perhaps a glass of wine. And maybe catch up on our favourite TV shows (Dexter, Person of Interest, Homeland and our latest discovery is the UK’s Sherlock, which Alex blogged about here quite extensively and mentioned on Tuesday!) By the way, Alex, now that I’ve watched it I totally agree 🙂 We’re loving Sherlock.

So now onto the hate part. At times, I feel like my chosen path has taken many things away from me (or at least denied me things). I look at my friends who are still in the corporate world, and I do notice the differences in our lifestyles. Bigger houses, better cars, dinners out…etc. etc. And on the one hand I feel: “No, that’s all material stuff. I’m living my dream — literally.”  Then I answer myself back: “No, your dream is to make a living from writing, or better yet be a best-selling novelist.” And I hate that my love and skill doesn’t equate to making a decent living.   

At times, I think I have to give up for my own sanity. Not to mention financial freedom.  If I went back into the corporate world (even part time) things would certainly be a lot easier financially. But if I’m this cranky when I’m only getting a few hours here and there to write, what would I be like if I didn’t write at all? Or if I wasn’t writing at all, wasn’t trying to finish a book and write that best seller, would I simply be able to let it go?

I’m thinking many of the writers out there can relate to this dilemma. There are at least a few of us at Murderati who’ve been circling or blogging directly about how hard it is to do what we love and make a living.

So, what’s the answer? Go back into the corporate world? Work harder at my writing? Maybe I need to force myself to write at night to add a couple of hours to my weekly quota.

I’m actually feeling pretty good about my current work in progress, but I usually do when I’m in the middle of the first draft. I have that writing high — which deserves a dedicated blog, so that will be in a fortnight’s time.

Safe to say, I’m in the love cycle of my relationship with writing, as long as I don’t think about the dream. The author’s dream.

So, Murderati if you’ve got answers or thoughts throw them my way. Is it normal to love writing but also resent it (almost kind of hate it) because of the financial repercussions of choosing this path? I’m thinking maybe that’s pretty normal for an author these days. And maybe there are no answers.

I’m going to try to focus on the love at the moment. You?

8 thoughts on “My love-hate relationship with writing

  1. Elise M Stone

    I think most writers have a love-hate relationship with writing. Even when we've got a scene that just will not come together, wrestling with the problem has rewards of its own. And those of us who are addicted to writing do feel crabby and restless and generally out of sorts when we don't do it. After some disappointing contest results two years ago, I decided to stop writing. That lasted three days. I couldn't stop.

    At my stage of life, it's not necessarily about the finances. I figured out years ago that making a living as a writer was a long shot. I went to part time at the day job at the end of last year so I would have more time to write. I'll be retired next year and won't be counting on any writing income to supplement my retirement income.

    Having just indie published my first novel as an ebook, my concern is being read. NYT besteller would be nice, but I'd be satisfied to have a core of readers who enjoyed my books. I know building that core will take a long time. I'm not the most patient person in the world, but I'm trying to take the long view rather than the give-away-thousands-of-books-for-free mentality that is so prevalent among self-publishers.

    And yet, something inside me keeps asking if, once I'm retired, do I really want to spend my days at a computer writing stories that hardly anyone will read? My thing is looking at my friends and seeing them spend their weekends going to movies and fairs and out to dinner; in other words, having fun, while I write and learn how to format ebooks and work with an editor and cover designer. And that's my love-hate relationship with writing.

  2. David Corbett

    Yes, interesting follow-up to Gar's post yesterday.

    Doesn't everything boil down to: How am I to live my life? And it's sometimes instructive to imagine yourself at death's door, your hand on the knob, and looking back over your shoulder at how you spent your time. What would you regret? What would you wish you'd done more, or better, or more mindfully or passionately?

    Of course, there are things we must do. And there too the question: Did I do them wisely?

    I have no answers, mind you. I'm not sure anyone does.

    But I'm glad you're in the love cycle at the moment. You deserve that, Phillipa.

  3. Richard Maguire

    I can totally relate to the second part of your post. I had twelve radio dramas broadcast. Some were in the one-hour format, the others 45 minutes and thirty minutes. In Europe, radio is still a fairly popular medium for plays. Here in Germany it is called Horspiel – Soundplay.

    I grew tired, though, of telling stories through dialogue and sound effects. At its best, I believe radio drama can do anything, go anywhere, have a cast of thousands. One of the hour-long plays was set in 1930s Nuremberg and we used archive material recorded at the 1938 Rally, when Hitler gave one of his infamous speeches. The effect was really quite spooky.

    Eight years have gone by since my last play was broadcast. I made half-hearted attempts to work on other ideas, but they went nowhere. I was tired of filling my head with characters that would never be seen, and that felt flat an uninteresting on the page. To make a long story short, I fell out of love with writing, and stopped.

  4. Lisa Alber

    Hi Phillipa,

    What you describe sounds normal to me. Seems like the love-hate dichotomy is getting stronger the longer I write with no readership. When I started out, it was all love, all the time–I was so SURE about it all. Now, years later, reality check and the hate side started to grow.

    So I have to lasoo my thoughts back to the right place. Sometimes I feel like I'm forcing it–and if it's such an effort, why do it? (I still haven't figured that one out.) Also, as Richard wrote, it gets tiring.

    This statement captures it for me: "I’m in the love cycle of my relationship with writing, as long as I don’t think about the dream." When I'm doing my thing, I love it. When I start pondering my dream, well…that's when I get down.

    I felt compelled to get a "real" job last July. It's been a tough transition. Hugely stressful and demoralizing. I'm struggling with my fiction–I, too, am too tired at night to write. I'm trying to figure out strategies. For example, perhaps taking a shower to wash off the day and to relax/refresh, might help — maybe? Still working all that out.

  5. PD Martin

    Hi Elise. Yes, I think you're right about the love-hate relationship being something many authors feel. And it's frustrating that a great book doesn't mean it will do well. In most other professions if you're good at your job you get rewarded! Still, there's nothing quite like being a writer 🙂

    As you probably gathered from my post, with little ones at home I am at a different life stage to you. I think writing into semi-retirement and then retirement is a great place to be in…except when your friends are out and about and you're not! Good luck finding the balance.

    And good luck with your ebook projects. I launched into ebooks myself last year as a bit of an experiment. It's amazing how much they've changed the publishing industry.

    Phillipa

  6. PD Martin

    Hi David. Thanks for bringing up the retrospect/death's door thing. I often forget about that. Stupid, I know! I have had a couple of friends die young so that should always be front of mind.

    Anyway, I think if I was in that place now, I'd be worried about my kids, which obviously means the most important thing now (especially while they're still so young) is to spend time with them. And I do have a pretty good balance…even though our lifestyle is modest by some standards, by many it's quite lavish! For example, because my husband is Irish, we go back there every 2-3 years. We have to save like crazy to make it happen, but we do/can make it happen. And my hubby and I both spend a lot of time with our children rather than working jobs that demand long hours.

    Anyway, thanks as always for your input, David.

  7. PD Martin

    Hi Richard. That sounds like a fascinating career in radio plays. And the one you describe that used the rally audio sounds amazing. I can imagine it was spooky!

    I think there's a fine line for writers – yes, we DO right for ourselves, for the writing process. But yet it's not entirely in a vacuum. At some stage we expect our words to be read (or in your case your radio plays to be produced). And it's frustrating when that doesn't happen or when the numbers are smaller than you want!

    Do you ever miss writing the radio plays? Are you glad you stopped?

  8. PD Martin

    Hi Lisa. Yes, I think more writers are experiencing this problem now – published and unpublished. Unfortunately the market seems to be getting tighter, which makes it harder to get published and harder to STAY published. And that was something I didn't even think about when my novels first hit the market.

    Still, it IS the best job in the world, it's just that it's hard to make a full-time living out of it.

    Moving from the day's work to writing at night IS hard. Although I'm not sure about the shower thing…then I'd just get into my PJs and I think the sofa looks even more inviting when in PJs!

    Regardless, I think we should both struggle on and find the love! 🙂

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