I started writing my first novel 8 years ago, almost to the day. (I don't know why I'll always remember it was July 12th that I wrote those first fateful words.) I had already been writing for years, mostly short stories and some failed attempts at novels, but there was something about this time that was going to be different.
It wasn't so much that this story idea was any better than the rest. It was more a state-of-mind. I had recently discovered National Novel Writing Month, and along with that, the realization that yes, truly anyone could write a novel. Before then, it had seemed like a pipe dream--something to poke at in the dark corners of my space and time.
That book did end up becoming my first complete novel, but I still didn't consider myself a "writer." I'd managed to find the time over those six months to complete a first draft, but there was still so much I didn't know. It was still just a "hobby." I hadn't made it a priority in my life.
ANSWERING THE CALL
Over the next few years, I had my two girls. Through the exhaustion of two pregnancies and the endless sleepless nights that come with newborns, I continued to write because I couldn't not write, and because in all the chaos, it was my lifeline.
I didn't think too hard about what writing would mean for my future--it took every ounce of energy I had just to make it through the day.
When my second (and final, for sure!) daughter turned one, life started to finally settle into a routine. The girls weren't quite so dependent on me, and with that opportunity to breathe and regroup, I had to take a look at what role writing was going to play in my future. Would it continue to be dirty little secret or was I going to make a career of it? In my heart of hearts, I always knew it would be the latter, but being a young mother had been a convenient (and valid) place for me to hide, avoiding the next step. Because let's face it, declaring yourself a career writer is scary, and the path is hard. We've been hearing since we first picked up the pen that it's almost impossible to make it in this industry, so why set ourselves up for failure? Why put myself out there for rejection?
Nevertheless, I reluctantly decided to move in that direction. I wasn't 100% sure it was what I wanted or that it was even possible, but felt like it was time to either sink or swim.
COMMITTING TO MY WRITING
Let me tell you, somehow writing had never been harder. I now had a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old and while they were mostly sleeping through the night and were no longer nursing, it felt like parenting had never been harder. Their incessant requests drained me of energy, their frequent colds threw life constantly out of balance, their tantrums had me counting down the seconds until nap time. And don't even get me started on the days that nap time didn't happen at all.
On top of that, two pregnancies had taken their toll on my poor body and I began to battle health problems. Writing, now that I had decided to take it "seriously", became another demand on my time when I had more than my share of demands. I'm embarrassed to admit how angry and hopeless I felt during this time, but I'm sure you can empathize. You can probably even relate.
With sheer stubbornness, I managed to finish my book through all of this and even land an agent. It was an exciting time, but it was also a terrifying time. I was no longer just writing for me, on my own schedule. I had other people counting on my writing now and I still hadn't discovered the secret to writing every day and to mentally blocking out everything else during those times so I could focus on nothing but my story. But since I had finally committed myself to writing as a career, I knew I had to find a way to overcome all these obstacles.
I did a lot of soul searching and personal growth, and here's what I came up with...
THE TRUTH BEHIND WHAT WAS HOLDING ME BACK
It was all me. All those obstacles, that lack of energy, those intrusions--it was all me.
Don't get me wrong--they were very real and very valid (kids are the most demanding little creatures!), but I finally had to admit that they only affected me as much as I allowed them to.
Finding a way to work my writing in around their needs was up to me. How much energy I handed over to them when they threw tantrums was my choice. How much power I gave my health issues over my body was a matter of my mind.
I had been clinging to these barriers because it was safer than admitting that writing was hard and vulnerable and that I was likely to feel like I was failing more often than I felt like I was succeeding. It was so much easier to succumb to stressors and do literally anything else but write...but it wasn't getting me any closer to my goals.
And making a career of my writing was my goal. Not fully embracing it was just another way I hid in my fear.
Since then, it's been a long and trying couple of years. Professional edits were the hardest writing challenge I'd ever faced. There have been hundreds of days when I managed to make writing the priority of my day and felt like I was walking on air, and there have been hundreds of days when there was just no way I could rise to the occasion and I felt buried under the weight of my guilt.
CHANGING MY MIND
Are the girls less demanding? If anything, now that they've started school, I feel like there are more demands than ever! I navigate two different school schedules, homework, packing lunches, volunteering, and play dates along with the usual household and mothering responsibilities. My health got a lot worse before it started to get better, and even now, it's a daily battle.
But you know what? I'm a more productive writer than I've ever been and it comes easier than it ever has. Not because anything outside of me has truly changed, but because a lot of things inside me have changed.
Here are just a few of those things:
I'm not saying it's easy and I'm not saying there won't be times in life when writing really does have to take a back seat or even come to a complete stop. It happens. What I am saying is that if a writing career is really what you want, you have to be wiling to go to battle for it, even when--especially when--the obstacle you most need to overcome is yourself.
What is the biggest obstacle to your writing? How do you overcome it?
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Jamie Raintree is a writer, a writing business and productivity instructor, and the creator of the Writing & Revision Tracker. Her debut women's fiction novel will release Summer 2017. Subscribe to her newsletter for more blogs, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website below.
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I agree with all of them, Jaimie! Bravo on your courage!
Thank you, Laura! I think of it more as pure stubbornness. Lol!
I am the obstacle in my writing. So true. I need to learn to force myself to sit in that chair and write past the fear. Great post.
You've got this, Alice. WE believe in you!!!
It's tough, especially at first. But I've learned that once it starts to become a habit, it's much easier! Sending you hugs and encouragement!
I never thought of writing as a habit. For me, writing is something I do when -- for whatever reason -- I am really angry or worried or upset in some other way. Typically, I write one or two thousand words about something, I feel better, and I quit until the next time. I publish on my WordPress blog, but very seldom try to publish elsewhere. When I do try, though, I am often successful.
I think it depends on what you're hoping to get out of writing. Writing is a release for you and I'm so glad you found it! Too many people don't have that thing and take it out in unhealthy ways. Hold tight to that. For those who are writing as a career, we do tend to make a habit of it so we can keep our productivity up. Either way, you just have to find the process that is best for you. For me, making a habit of it helps take the emotional struggle out of whether or not I'm going to do it each day.
Bravo, Jamie, for realizing your need to be a writer and recognizing the real obstacles come from within. The "without" obstacles are tough enough, but tackling the inner angst and fears is even tougher. And I love your Writing & Revision Tracker idea! There is nothing like seeing the progress every day to propel you forward.
Agreed--the internal ones are the worst. Some days I felt like I wanted to get out of my own skin! And since I'm revising right now, let's face it--sometimes I still do. Lol! But it's the daily building of confidence that makes it easier all the time.
Glad you like the Writing & Revision Tracker!
Family demands never cease. Even when your "children" are grown-ups. Writing will always be your lifeline. The one constant in a WRITER'S day. I salute you Jaimie Raintree. As Laura says, so say I. Bravo!
So I've heard! Lol! I have no doubt. I still turn to my parents for all kinds of support!
A powerful post! I worry about the balance of family, work, and writing. No kids yet--but one day soon. It's good to hear a positive outlook like this and ideas to manage time. 🙂
It's tough! But the one piece of advice I have is to be flexible. I have to shift my schedule every time the girls reach a new stage, but I never, never, never give up my writing. As long as you are determined, you will always find a way!
Well said and well done. Thanks Jamie.
Thank you, Stephanie!
What a timely post, one I definitely empathized with! I'm in the throes of the early years with little ones (4, 2, and 3mo!) and I dread facing each day, the constant battles, the whining, the crying... My writing has definitely taken a backseat to "life," but unfortunately my health has suffered dramatically as well. Trying to take each day as it comes, which is easier said than done. I'm following your journey as you go—very inspiring to read about such a similar life and how you've pushed through and succeeded. xo
That's a whole lot of juggling you're doing. Those are particularly tough years to balance together and I'm sure some days you're absolutely losing your mind. Still, doing one thing for yourself each day will probably give you back a piece of it. That's why Alice Munro wrote short stories and why I started blogging. It was small, and gave me something else to focus on besides whining and crying. (Me AND the child. 🙂 )
Oh, you sweet thing! And I thought the two was tough! You've definitely got a lot on your plate right now and I think giving yourself grace is the best thing you can do. Write when you can and when you can't, know that life won't always be so crazy. The older they get, the more of yourself and your time you will get back. In the meantime, take care of yourself! And please reach out if I can do anything to support you or just be a shoulder to lean on. 🙂
Jamie, I really related to this post--and I bet LOTS of other women will, too. It's funny, but I think that having children does rob you of time and energy, but it also gives you more motivation to commit to your life--and to your writing--both for them and for ourselves, so that we can keep a part of our identities after motherhood. I really committed to my writing only after I'd had my first child as well, and finishing a novel really is all about that willingness to sacrifice other things to make writing a priority. Good for you!
THIS, Holly. So much this.
I became much more committed to my writing after having a child. If she can't see her mommy following her dreams, what kind of lesson am I teaching her?
I agree wholeheartedly! I think becoming a mother gave me a whole new respect for myself and my life. It matured me and made me stronger. I think it would have actually taken me a lot longer to get here WITHOUT my kids. Thank you for bringing up this point! And congrats to you for all you've accomplished! You're an inspiration! (And as a side note, I LOVED Chance Harbor!! Thank you for persevering so you could bring us beautiful stories!)
I love your five points
Thank you! Glad to hear it!
I can relate to this. I have a hard time finding time to write but that stims out of excuses that I make for myself. These points are great! Better time management would go a long way for me.
Yes! And the excuses are so convincing, aren't they? I've fallen into the trap over and over again but I know that it's a trap because afterward, I feel worse, not better. Keep at it! And if you'd like a worksheet to help you better map out your schedule, be sure to check out my Time Blocking Worksheet. You can get it by subscribing to my newsletter or sending me an email. 🙂
Thank you for having the courage to share your inspiring journey with us. Congratulations to your upcoming novel--what a testimony to perseverance. And a big hat's off to all the mothers and fathers at home with their children who are figuring out ways to get their writing done.
I appreciate your kindness, Rick! I was definitely nervous about this one but I feel like it's important to talk about the hard stuff. Living a writing life isn't easy but that's also what makes it beautiful if we learn to enjoy the process and grow from it.
Jamie - this is an AWESOME and extremely timely post! thanks for sharing 🙂 CANNOT wait to see and hold and read your first of what I'm sure will be many great reads!!
Thanks, Trina! I am so excited to be able to share it with you and so proud of you for persevering in your own writing! I've seen a shift in you recently and I hope you recognize it. You're doing it, lady!
Thanks, Jamie. Every writer needs to hear your honest words--and believe!
Pinned & shared. 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing, Linda! It means a lot to know it resonated! 🙂
Jamie, thanks so much for this post! I just approved a few more comments, so you might want to take one more pass through. 🙂
Thanks, Jenny! Got them! 🙂
Good, because I just approved some more! 🙂
I'm catching up on posts today (first time in a couple of weeks I've had time to sit and actually read the tabs open in Safari). Interestingly enough, the previous post I read was by Katie Rose on writing every day. Great transition into yours.
It took me a long time to realize that I don't have to write every day and that I don't have to feel guilty for the time I write or the time I don't write, whatever the guilt de jour may be. The last year and a half has been one crazy rollercoaster for me and there have been more days than I care to count when life beat me into the back of the cave. I learned to use some of that emotion in my writing but I also learned that sometimes, that emotion needs other outlets and writing just won't be happening that day. And that's okay. It doesn't make me any less of a writer, it doesn't make me any less committed.
You, my friend, have accomplished so much in the last couple of years. I'm so proud of you!!!!
I'm so glad you've found that place of peace and acceptance, Orly! It's the best gift you can give yourself. Every writer is a different kind of writer and I think it's so important to discover and love who YOU are as a writer, all rules out the window.
And you have accomplished so much as well! So happy for you and glad to have been able to witness your success!
I still dream about being "only a writer" : giving up my day job and having long hours to devote to words. But I also know that I didn't make good use of that time when I had it, pre-motherhood and big career concerns. In some ways, I think I'm more productive exactly because I have to protect my small bits of writing time and use them effectively. It brings me focus.
EXACTLY! Somehow the busier I get, the more I get done. And when I have nothing else on my plate, I get nothing done. You're accomplishing so much so clearly you're doing it right!
Jamie, don't exactly know what to write in response to your heartfelt post, I am welling up because I'm in that position (PLUS today is one of those bad days you mentioned 😉 ) Thank you for sharing, 'thank you' is so inadequate right now, but you have helped me so much. Delighted to see all the news on Facebook, you absolutely deserve this success and all those that are to come!
Best for now - Nikki.
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This is an awesome post, Jamie. I've always admired your positivity and can-do attitude. It's even more so after learning of your struggles.
I, too, have had several health issues over the last year and I've gone from not writing at all (and being miserable and angry) to writing every day (and being thankful and productive). I realized writing was one thing in my whole life that my illness couldn't affect unless I allowed it to do so.
It took a lot of trial and error, commitment, and support from my friends and family, but I can honestly say I am a writer every day of my life.
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