Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guest Post! The Challenges of Being a Writer and Holding down a Full-time Job By: Anne Garcia

The Challenges of Being a Writer and Holding down a Full-time Job
By: Anne Garcia

I am often asked "How do you do it?" and when I respond "What?" My colleagues and friends look at me like I'm crazy. Loca, deranged or superwoman are just a few of the descriptors I have heard to label me and while it sounds humorous or offensive or even just plain weird that people think I am an oddity I think there are a lot of writers out there who pull it together while working a full-time jobs or raising a family. For most of us it is a luxury to be able to just write. I'd like to say that I am one of those people who gets up at 4:00 in the morning to write before going to work, but that would be a flat out lie. I'm lucky if I get up in time to shower, make lunches for the kids, throw on an outfit and get out the door.

I feel envious as I turn on one of the various podcasts that keep me company on my commute to work. I shove my bag in the back seat and balance my coffee in one hand while steering with other, then find myself wondering what it would be like to get to write full-time. The writing and screenplay pod casters talk of process and craft, of publishing and finding agents, of carving out three or four hour chunks of time to write at the same time each day, all of which are important aspects of a writing career. However, what I'm thinking is when I will get in a good fifteen minutes of writing before teaching math and after teaching Language Arts. Could I record my thoughts while folding the laundry or jot down some notes in between adding the garlic to the spaghetti sauce and starting to boil the pasta? Not a very regular or efficient writing schedule is it? But somehow I keep trying and while it may take me longer to finish a project I feel like if I just keep plugging along I in some way have been successful.

I gave up on romanticizing about writing a long time ago and realized that it was just like anything else. It is hard work. For me, working all day means it is that much more important to be organized and persistent with my projects. When I was half way through the first write of Las Hechizadas I became pregnant with my son. I knew I had to finish the first draft before he was born because a newborn child would consume me. I pushed through and did it. It took me eight years to get the manuscript into a final copy and published. It was arduous and at times frustrating, but I didn’t stop. Don’t sweat it, I kept telling myself, but the little voice inside of me was critical. I reached a point when I knew I had to be specific in what I wanted to work on and focus on that, or I really would never finish. With so little time I have learned that setting small goals every day helps. Goals can be as simple as writing 20 minutes a day, three pages, finish a chapter, etc. I sometimes set goals that will take a long time to accomplish, but I know if I work it every day I will slowly make progress. It's hard enough to keep work and life organized without adding to that chaos so keep your writing simple and straightforward. While I may have many story ideas floating around in my mind I try to work on one story at a time. By doing this I don't confuse characters and their stories. I am a very linear writer so this works for me. If an idea pops up I write it down and put it in my "Save My Thoughts" notebook. This notebook is like a journal of lost or undeveloped characters and stories waiting to come alive. It’s a piece of advice I’ve heard from many writers. It can be a notebook, a box, a filing system, but it’s important to have something. By putting them away I don't worry that they will be lost.

I also don't have the time to consult with my writer's group as often as I used to, but I have formed a close knit group of writer friends who help me whether it be via moral support or reading and critiquing my work. When you are not writing as a full-time job it is important to stay connected. Listening to writing podcasts, subscribing to trade magazines, reading other author's blogs, writing your own blog and collaborating with other writers on a regular basis all help keep the inspiration and motivation alive.

I like to think of teaching as my job and writing as my passion. Perhaps for this reason I am able to do both. When you have a passion it isn't hard to practice it or participate in sustaining it. If you love to write then just write. Don't let busy work schedules or soccer games or piano lessons stop you. Allow all of these things to push you to write. It's in the small moments that we can find our strongest voice and the clarity we need in a normally hectic reality to create and construct.

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