Breaking My Writing Ceiling
My life is complete bonkers. I have four children under the age of eight. My oldest has seizures, my youngest is an infant. I teach middle school English to pay the mortgage and student loans.
No one is more surprised than I that I wrote more than sixty thousand words last year. These pieces were in the form of:
- blog posts
- magazine articles
I suppose more prolific writers will scoff at this word count, but for me, it was a huge breakthrough. This article is not for them. This article is for those of you who don’t think you can pursue your writing dream because of your crazy personal life.
I don’t know exactly how I did it, but here are some things that I did not do:
Four Things I Did Not Do to Break My Writing Ceiling
I Did Not Ignore My Family:
I’m very present in the lives of my children and wife. On a weekly basis I engage in the following and more:
- Change diapers
- Give baths
- Administer meds
- Share family dinner
I’m not nominating myself for father-of-the-year. I make plenty of mistakes, trust me. My point is that to be a writer you don’t have to start booking therapy sessions for your children.
You can be a writer and a parent too.
I Did Not Give Up My Social Life
I spent time with my dad and mom. I had dinner with friends. I went to extended family gatherings. I even played in a fantasy football league.
While it is true that you won’t be able to be a social butterfly, you also don’t have to be a hermit to pursue your writing.
In fact, I would argue that coming out of your cave to talk to real people goes a long way toward grounding your ideas in such a way that makes them more palatable to your readers.
I Did Not Walk Away from My Faith
I did not stop going to church, reading my bible, praying and volunteering. I’m not putting myself up there with Mother Theresa by any stretch, but I was able to write without compromising worship as a long-held priority in my life.
I Did Not Write Every Day
Maybe someday when my kids are older I can hit this mark. The truth is that some days are just too crazy to write. The universe gangs up on me in such a way that I just can’t win.
There were several times that I even went a whole week without writing…(gasp)!
Four Things I Did Do to Break My Writing Ceiling
So exactly how did I exactly break my personal writing ceiling while juggling a demanding personal life? Truthfully, I don’t really know. But here a few things that I did do along the way that helped.
I Did Give Up Some Things
I love to play golf competitively. I used to play in lots of tournaments. But golf takes up a lot of time. Last year I had to give it up. At some point, your writing is going to cost you something that hurts.
There is a burning question out there among writers that asks: When can you officially call yourself a writer?
My answer is: Not until you’ve given something up in order to write.
I Did Invest Money into Developing My Craft
I bought books. Some of my personal favorites were:
- The Memoir Project by Marion Roach-Smith
- The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
- On Writing by Stephen King
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
I went to my first writing conference. Tribe Conference in Nashville is great at delivering content but even better at delivering relationships.
I also bought my first online writing course, Tribe Writers. This course lays a track for me that keeps me from getting stuck. It also keeps me connected to other writers relationally.
There are lots of free resources out there to improve your writing. At some point, however, you’re going to have to part with some cold hard cash in order to be a pro.
I Did Maximize My Margins
I would love to have that set writing time each day. Right now, however, it’s just not happening. Sometimes my kids just wake up before I do. My lunch break at work is too short. Overall there’s just too much unpredictability with four small children to take care of.
The good news is that I found out that the stars don’t have to align in order to write. You can pull it off in a variety of positions, times of day, and lengths of time.
Just to name a few, I wrote:
- With my infant in my lap
- Early in the morning
- Late at night
- On my lunch break
- During the middle of the day
- In short bursts
- For two and three hour stretches (rarely)
If you’ve got a crazy life, be flexible and be kind to yourself. You can still get it done.
I Did…Just Write
When Anders was born I went a whole month without writing. There was just no time or mental space available. The longer I went without writing, the more discouraged I became.
I thought things like:
- I’m not a real writer because real writers don’t take a month off.
- I had a nice six-month writing burst, but it’s over for me. It was just a passing phase
- I’m a fraud.
Then something awesome happened. One day, I sat my butt back in the chair, opened my word processor, and started to type. And I’ve not stopped since.
What started off as the biggest threat to my confidence became my biggest confidence builder.
If life has caused you to put down your writing. Just start again. Today.
Break Your Own Writing Ceiling
My encouragement is for you to break your own personal writing ceiling this year, no matter your personal circumstances.
You might have to get it out of your mind that you’re going to be the next great American novelist, Building that 10,000 subscriber email list will just have to wait. And please…please don’t quit your day job just yet.
But give up your dream of being a writer?
Noway. Not on your life.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wrestle the Sharpie out of my two-year-old daughter’s hands.
Join the conversation in the “comments” section below:
Do you have a dream that you are pursuing in the margins of your life? How do you manage it?
Is there something you need help with?