In her insightful panel “Life or Work? Balancing Life’s Demands With Writing,” moderator Joan Johnston (Shattered, Hawk’s Way) quizzed a group of established publishing pros about how, exactly, you can quiet daily demands so that you can get those voices in your head down on the page and into the hands of readers.
David Bell (Cemetery Girl)
Bell said he excels at compartmentalizing. “I just think you have to be able to do that,” he said. And, “You have to be able to communicate with people in your life.” Simply explain to them that you have to do this work—it’s important to you, and it must be done.
Bell later added that you should not delay the pursuit of your dream. “Be patient, but don’t wait. … Start today, because the sooner you start the sooner you’re on the road to doing it. I always say you have to write bad stuff before you write good stuff.”
Literary Agent Josh Getzler
Getzler has three young kids at home, and he described his house as a whirlwind when he gets off work. So, he wakes up at 5 a.m. and works for a couple hours before all the chaos starts up. Like Bell, he also believes in the power of communication. Sometimes, he’ll simply tell his family that they can’t go out that week until he has done the necessary writing. “It’s always very much a challenge, and it’s never easy,” he said.
Later, when you have a manuscript ready to go and you’ve submitted it, Getzler said patience is key. “Luck is important, and patience is vital.”
Melodie Johnson Howe (Shooting Hollywood)
It’s an epidemic you may be familiar with—“When you say ‘I’m writing,’ people don’t always take that seriously,” Howe said. But writers have to find time to write. To keep her prose life productive, Howe said she has conditioned herself so that when her kids and husband interrupt her, she can still keep her train of thought going. “They get what they want, I get what I need,” she said.
Ultimately, “You put your ass in that chair, and you sit down and write. You just have to commit to it.”
Vladimir Lange (Fatal Memories)
To make the most of his writing time, when he goes to bed Lange visualizes the problem he’s trying to solve in his manuscript. When he wakes up the next morning, he goes straight to his work-in-progress, because if he permits any distractions to interfere, he can’t easily slip back into the creative mode.
Overall, Lange’s advice to those who want to be writers is to first focus on mastering the basics at courses, seminars, etc.—you don’t want to spend three years writing a book, only to find out you’ve broken some big no-nos that will doom the book.
Nancy Naigle (Sweet Tea And Secrets)
With a background in the banking industry, Naigle identified herself as a lister and a planner. She writes her goals out, knows her timelines, and comes up with solutions for what will help her achieve those goals. “The biggest thing you can do is just remember we do make time for the things we want to do and we love. I think you have to remember to put your own things first. … ”