Monday, June 20, 2011
Have you ever heard questions like that from your family or loved ones?
They’re the kind of questions that make you duck your head in guilt. The kind of questions that cause you to wonder if you’re really doing the right thing in pursuing a writing career.
After all, my family comes first. My relationships are more important than success. I want to cherish the time I have with my children. My oldest starts high school in the fall, and I’m realizing the time passes in seconds from when we bring them home from the hospital to when they pull out of the driveway to start lives of their own.
Even so, my writing is an important part of my life too.
So the question becomes, how do we juggle our families and our writing? How do we make sure we don’t neglect one for the other?
Over time, I’ve realized that one of the most helpful aspects to successfully juggling family and writing is to enlist my family’s support. When they get behind me and realize the importance of what I’m doing, I’ve found that the quantity and quality of my writing time has improved. It isn’t perfect! In fact, it’s far from it!
But . . . family support can go a long way in helping us juggle our writing and everything else.
Here are 4 things I’ve learned about gaining our families’ support for our writing:
1. Help family understand the importance of our writing early in our careers.
Prepublication writing often brings the most guilt. We usually tell ourselves something like this, “How can I justify taking time away from my family for my writing when I’m not making any money yet?” or “I’ll get more serious when I get an agent or a book contract.” And sure, there’s something about making money or landing an agent/book deal that validates the hours we spend on our books. But is that really what should legitimize our writing?
If something is important to us and brings us happiness, shouldn’t that be enough of a reason for our families to respect what we do? After all, we respect the things they’re passionate about. We give them the freedom to pursue their dreams.
Why should we expect any less for ourselves and our writing—no matter where we’re at in our journeys—published or not?
If we start early in our careers helping our families understand how important writing is to us—the fulfillment and joy it brings—then writing becomes more than just getting a paycheck or book contract. Our families can learn support us no matter the outcome.
2. Teach family to respect our work time.
If we want our family to respect our time, first we have to set the example. We need to schedule in writing time, then stick to it and work diligently. When we show them we take our writing time seriously, then they’ll begin to model us.
We can’t let other activities crowd out scheduled work time or get to it only if nothing else is on the calendar. If we treat it like a hobby and drop it for our other interests, then our families will expect us to drop our writing for their activities. But if we stick to our writing time religiously, they’ll begin to see it as a natural part our lives.
3. Plan family time too.
If we make a priority to schedule writing time, then why not schedule family time too? If we know that we’re going to have specific time to focus on our children or spouses at some point in the day, then we can approach our writing time without guilt.
Our families will have an easier time letting us work because they’ll be able to anticipate spending time with us. They’ll know they’re still important and that we don’t work “all” the time.
4. Make writing accomplishments a family affair.
I make a point of keeping my family informed of my writing plans. When I’m in first draft mode, they know I’m working on a daily word count goal. Frequently someone will ask, “Did you make your word count today, Mom?”
When I’m in editing mode, they’ll ask, “Did you get your two chapters done yet?” Whenever I complete a book or rewrites or something (big or small!), I try to make it a celebration that involves my family.
The more informed and involved my family is in my writing career the more they can understand and appreciate what I’m doing.
My Summary: With time and effort I’ve seen my family gradually come to accept and support my writing. In fact, our families can become our biggest cheerleaders on this road to publication and beyond.
How about you? How supportive is your family of your writing? What are things you’ve done to gain more of their support?
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