Have you ever thought about what it looks like to be a writer? I have. In my fondest imaginings, it involves a beach house, sounds like surf, smells like ocean, feels like warm sun, and comes in muted blues, greens, and tans.
This is what it really looks like….
It looks like every dish we own is stacked in the sink, smells like five loads of laundry, sounds like a crunchy floor, feels cold (it’s February in Indiana), and sounds like kids with cabin fever (a week of snow days) unless I crank up the iPod.
Because I have a deadline. Several, actually.
Unfortunately, these are not fiction deadlines. My professional writing life currently involves writing web content. It’s fun, but it’s demanding, and it’s opened my eyes about the reality of deadlines.
When you’re writing your first novel, you have, literally, the rest of your life to get it done. You can write when you feel like it, when you have time, between volunteer gigs, when the job permits…. You can let it lie fallow when the inspiration isn’t there, or when the family goes on vacation or your best friend calls. You can polish it until it gleams like a million diamonds and you’re confident it’s the best work you’ve ever done.
But once you get “the call,” and the coveted “three book contract,” everything changes.
As a professional, you’ll have deadlines. Very firm deadlines. Deadlines that incorporate other jobs, such as revising, editing, printing, proofing, cover art, marketing–and that include tens if not hundreds of people…who are counting on you. Deadlines devour. They create dirty dishes, complaints of “no underwear,” cut out “girls’ night,” vaporize school volunteering, hobbies, TV, reading and, if you’re not careful, quality time with children and spouse. Unless you have a very helpful spouse or nanny, you’ll see more of 3 a.m. than you ever did in college. Sometimes, like today, you might wonder if this really is what you want to do when you grow up.
But it is. The chaos, the clutter, the anxiety, the stress. It’s all part of being a professional. The one who gets paid. It’s not pretty, but it is…beautiful.