As a working author, I would like to speak to a few things that might be of interest to your community in the Author’s Lounge at ReadersMagnet.club, such as organizing, my wobbly path to publication, and what happened afterward. Plus, I’ll make sure to post links so you can find me.
Many of us struggle between home and work so this isn’t a particularly original issue. However, as a woman married to a man with dementia, my priorities have shifted. As I write this sentence, I’m wondering if my husband needs me. My Bob needs help with meals and sometimes I must even feed him. He needs help with toileting and often needs multiple changes of clothing a day. He needs help sitting up and standing but he can still walk. This will change when his motor skills fail him. At that point, I pray he doesn’t realize what has happened to him. It’s all incredibly sad and tragic. I spend an inordinate amount of time taking care of him during the day.
We go into marriage with hopes and dreams and visions of walking, at the end, hand-in-hand down a leafy covered path with our beloveds. We take our vows to love and cherish through sickness and health, richer and poorer till death do us part. But these vows don’t mean much until we come face-to-face with reality—becoming poorer or when one of us falls sick. Then, we find ourselves repeating the vows to remind us that this is the hard job of a spouse. We took the oath. Now, we must fulfill that oath.
I tell you about our extremely personal lives because over the past several years I’ve had to organize my time around caring for someone whether that was my mother who died of Alzheimer’s December 19, 2016, or whether it is my husband right now.
Quite a few years back, we decided my writing would take up a big amount of importance, time, and structure for me to write. I spend eight hours a day on writing and the business of writing. A few years back we established a specific area inside the house for me to write. Later, I took part of the house as my studio. I go to the studio first thing in the morning when Bob is still in bed and I take a break for his breakfast, lunch, and dinner. By dinnertime, I stop working like anyone else who goes to an office, factory, or farm. This is our normal. Susan works. Bob doesn’t. It wasn’t always like this.
When we come to the concept of balance, it gets trickier. People need breaks. I call them self-love breaks. We need to know that we cannot do everything in only twenty-four hours. I let messes build up because I refuse to let a thing take priority over my writing. Part of this self-love means that I had to hire outside help. Admittedly, hiring help is a luxury and I’m thankful we are able slip house maintenance into our budget. But we need to. We have a 3,000-square foot home on a five-acre plot of land. We need help.
I guess my point here is, focus on your writing first because if you want to succeed as a writer create a life where you can write your pants off! Put off cleaning and other house-y things until the weekend. And breathe. Take care of your loved ones first then work without letting one eclipse the other. That’s my balance.
Path to publishing
Publishing takes more patience than writing. This I’ll admit. When you write, you forget about all the extraneous things going on around you. Time soars. You’re happy because you’re doing the thing you love most. You’re writing! And not when I’m hawking my wears or shopping another story to another publisher but when I’m writing. This is my groove. I’m centered when I write. Having a place to write is key but the writing is what centers the writer’s soul.
Then what happened?
After getting into my groove, I started producing more work. I write everything—poetry, nonfiction, but mainly I write fiction. Still, many of my poems have been picked up by publications, one of which was the online Virginia Quarterly Review when it published one of my poems called “The Fisherman, the Eagle and Jesus.”
But where my work is most recognized is with my novels. Many are Amazon bestsellers. Many have won awards. Those two things started happening for my stories by 2014, after six years. This is revealing. The early work was more like practice and when I hit my stride, the work became more important and something people might like to read. I hope so anyway. I was ecstatic when my latest coming of age novel, “How the Deer Moon Hungers” got three awards within its first three months. Again, I was thrilled. But believe that Deer Moon is my best work yet. People seem to enjoy it too.
That’s something too. It’s one thing to get an award and quite another when readers love your work. That’s the real reason we write—to be read. It’s readers who make an author’s life worth living. They’re the ones we want to hear from. Don’t get me wrong. The awards are awesome but when a reader writes to tell you that they love your story…well, heaven comes to mind. To me, this is far better than any plaque or shiny button.
Come talk with me!
Thanks again for asking me to contribute to the Authors Lounge. I appreciate everyone who has and will read this.
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