Writing; time, all or nothing

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Recently posed with a difficult question that not only a lot of writers face, but probably people in general when faced with difficult life decisions. I hope anyone facing these same issues can find some comfort that we all are looking for the same answers:
To paraphrase the question presented:
I’m struggling and just looking for some insight. Have you been in a similar position? Advice? 
My question is for those of you who have full time jobs (or had in the case of those who are already published)… how did you find the time, motivation and dedication to continue with your writing? How did you separate yourself from your work life and your “book life? What do you do if you actually LIKE your job but you also REALLY want to be published? Does it always have to be an either/or or all or nothing??

What I responded with was this:
I don’t know if this will help or not, but this has been my experience:

I’d been a closet writer for years secretly daydreaming of the day when I could quit my full time job and burst onto the NY Times best selling list as this year’s latest and greatest. My imagination is so vast that I would even practice the interviews I would have on Oprah and local television shows while washing my hair in the shower.

Oh, one slight problem. I actually had to have to courage to put myself out there and actually get published. Um, I kinda like the daydreams better, true life is scary.

Well, soon life moved on and Oprah retired (dang it, there went some really great interviews) and as I realized I was living in an irrational fear; not really knowing if I would really fail or not because I never really tried.

Last spring I thought it was fate that my fav of favorite authors posted she was attending RT (Romantic Times Convention) at that same time I had decided to make a change in my life. I had to do more digging. What was this mysterious RT she talked about? The sleuthy stalker in me had to investigate and when I discovered it was a convention for not only published authors, but aspiring ones as well, I about fell off the couch. Not only had fate delivered exactly what I needed right into my lap, but it was also in my backyard. I didn’t need airfare and I certainly didn’t need another sign to tell me “dummy, you need to go to this event and get your ass in gear.”

Not only did I get to meet my favorite author and get a picture with her (squeee), but I was able to tell her in person that she was my inspiration for being able to attend the event. Ok, fan moment aside I learned a ton, but I’m still in the beginning phases of what I need to do to even come close to make my fantasies come true.

What I brought home from RT was this:
You are not alone. There is a huge community of writers out there and they are just like you. I meet people from all over the world and the common bond we all shared was romance. Whether you write steampunk, young adult, paranormal, contemporary, it didn’t matter because at the core of the matter, at the real heart (pun intended) of your story it has the elements of romance.

You will forever be changed by your experience by attending RT. There are no words to describe the overwhelming, exhausting, jam-packed, knowledge filled, and fun time you will have during the time you are there. The moment I was home I couldn’t wait until next spring to go back. Well, first I wanted to catch up on sleep, unpack all my swag and goodies, then make sure I signed up for the conference again the following year.

Now to get to the tough question and answer section of what a lot of authors face. When I attended last year, all shiny and new. The naïve virgin that I was. I went as myself. Huh? In my daydreams I had thought about pennames, but nothing concrete because again, that was just fantasy. So again, being new to the whole scene I went to RT as me. It was actually at several workshops that I discovered that authors really are not who they are. They have pennames. Mind blown.

They keep their personal life and writing lives totally separate. A few even said that within their personal life no one even knew that they were a writer. WHAAAAAAA!!!

Why would you not want to advertise this? After all I’d pictured myself on Oprah-right? Haha. But after more and more stories were shared I began to understand.

Fantasy is soooo far from reality. I’m horribly shy and would probably throw up and run away before actually taking a step on Oprah’s stage. But that isn’t the point I’m trying to make. I have discovered over the years that not only do I get this pained look like “oh, you poor dear, you must lack a proper education” when I mention I read romance novels (and I read them by the truck load I’d like to add, but instead I just smile and nod like the idiot I am), but heaven forbid I mention I write them. You will find a large sympathetic pool of authors who have had this same experience and yet romance novels comprise the largest selling market out there, so you tell me who is buying them? Hum???

I’m not ashamed to have my name out there, but I still have children in school and like I said I was not alone in this large community of writers and readers.  I also knew how I was received when I mentioned reading romance, and suddenly a talk show on Oprah didn’t seem so great and I certainly didn’t want any backlash on my family. My own skin is thick enough, but I worried more about my little kiddos

The more I learned the thought of creating an alter ego was kind of thrilling. I felt like I was stepping into tights and putting on a cape now when I enter my writing cave. (theme music begins rolling)

I know I’ve had these voices, fantasies, whatever you want to call them floating around in my head for years, but to be able to put another name on who is actually running the show (well sometimes I get to run the show and then sometimes the character I’m working on takes over and then everything goes a totally different direction) is actually kind of nice.

I still work full time and it doesn’t leave a lot of time to squeeze my writing in between working, running kids to and from different events and getting pulled into every volunteer organization possible. I have a great boss who understands that I love to read and that I do write, but I have a horribly high work ethic and being shy seems to make it hard to say no. I seem to have this beacon, besides my bright red hair, that screams to people “pick me to volunteer”. There was a time when the girls were littler and there wasn’t a single day of the week or weekend that we were actually home. I’ve gotten braver (ok, actually I’ve just gotten better at hiding) so that I have a few nights to myself and can dedicate it to writing or just kick back and read.

I’m not sure I’ve been able to answer the question to any real degree of firmness, aside from showing with enough dedication, will and lunacy, you can achieve anything you want to achieve. I still hope and dream to become a published author someday. Until that time I’m still writing and enjoy doing all the other things that fill in the gaps in between.

Keep reading, keep writing, good fortune!
-Kay Daniels

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K

Aspiring author

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