Monday, June 14, 2010

The When to Write

In our great discussion on Friday, Margo got me thinking about timing and writing. When is it a good time to become a writer? At what point in our lives can we take our dream of writing seriously? Many of us have jobs, kids, and other time-consuming commitments. Sometimes it’s even poor health that gets in our way. Yet, as Margo pointed out, ideas keep coming and the fire to write doesn’t quell just because we haven’t the time. So I’m wondering, friends, what do you do when life or health or whatever won’t dish out an hour or more a day to let you write? Do you stop? Do you wait? Do you make do with the time you have?

It’s probably not a coincidence that I’m thinking about this just as summer break has hit. My schedule is in upheaval and the warm weather beckons me outdoors most of the day. But despite it all, as I said on Friday, I can’t fight the urge to write. So I work it in and make do with the time I’m given. Because all things considered, there probably never IS a perfect point in our lives to write. There will always be something that keeps us from the ideal. And even if there were an ideal time, I can’t say as I would want to wait. These stories are aching to be told right now for one thing. For another, I don’t really want to be at the end of my days, as Susan pointed out, having never tried for my life’s dream of publishing those stories. I’m reminded of how many authors have overcome time-constraining factors and managed to write their greatest works while inhibited:

1. Jane Austen suffered from what was likely Addison’s Disease. I’m sure there were many days she didn’t feel good enough to sit at her little writing desk and yet she did.
2. Jo Rowling was depressed, out of work, recently divorced, and had a new baby. If these obstacles would have stopped her, we would never had had Harry. (You know, those books that opened the door to many other kidlit books).
3. Charles Darwin suffered from an unknown illness that caused severe headaches, fevers and debilitating stomach pains. Yet he worked through the pain, tirelessly writing, researching, and thinking.
4. Virginia Woolf could only stand to write her books, her mental illness and eccentricities forcing the habit. Even if she couldn’t sit, she found a way to write regardless.
5. Hans Christian Anderson was word blind and dyslexic. How many lives have been blessed by his stories?
6. Avi, Fanny Flagg, Agatha Christie, James Joyce, William Yeats, Gustave Flaubert are/were also dyslexic and discouraged from pursuing writing as a profession.
7. Many authors are tortured by mental illness, two prominent yet prolific ones being Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. They used their experiences to add depth and a reality to their words.

I could go on, but I’ll leave you to mention any other inspiring cases in the comments. Instead, I’ll just quote Jane Yolen, "Just write. If you have to make a choice, if you say, 'Oh well, I'm going to put the writing away until my children are grown,' then you don't really want to be a writer. If you want to be a writer, you do your writing. . . if you don't do it, you probably don't want to be a writer, you just want to have written and be famous—which is very different."
I’ll be visiting my mom and dad most of the week, so I apologize if I’m a little slow in getting back to you. Be assured I will eventually, though. I promise! (And for those of you that know about my mom’s poor health, please keep her in your prayers again. The chemo clinical trial she was involved with just dropped her from the study. Now the course of treatment is kind of up in the air—a bit scary, but we're keeping positive.)

Have a lovely week, everyone!


  1. What an inspiring post! You are so right. If it's worth doing, then we will most likely have to overcome great odds against us. I think about this all the time. I have to fight to get my writing time in.

  2. This is a great post. There's no such thing as a time to become a writer. You either write or you don't, no matter what else is going on in your life. Sometimes you write because of what's going on in your life.


  3. This is such an inspiring and lovely post.

    All those literary examples you listed really made me pause and think: Are my obstacles really as great as theirs? No. Not nearly. And yet, I'm not writing nearly as often as I should.

    I'll get off blogger and go write now. :)

  4. I'm thinking of you and your mom. I'm sure she'll be thrilled to see you.

    Very few writers have the privilege of writing without obstacles. We just have to keep at it. I'm writing Page to Page, which is all about making time for reading and writing, not excuses. Easier said than done.

    After reading your list, I realize I have it easy.

  5. I am praying very hard for your mum! I hope you all find the strength to keep and stay positive! Best of luck and healthy wishes to your mum and to all of you.

    As for writing - I thoroughly agree - just write! And if other things get in the way, there are other times and means to put words on paper/screen/head! :-)

    Take care

  6. I think you need world experience to write. If I started writing at 12, 16, or even 20 I don't think I'd have enough emotion or depth. I really needed to grow up first to write in a mature way. Great question, and I bet the answer is different for everyone.

  7. It's funny, but I remember working full time, going to college full time, and having hours of homework--yet I couldn't keep from working on a novel a half-hour here or there when I could fit it in. It didn't feel like fitting it in back then.

    Now, I have even more responsibilities, but I still love the process of writing a first draft. Bliss!

    Will keep your mother in my prayers.

  8. I think, at some point, you just have to decide to go for matter what.

    I work full time and come home and write. It would be easier to do other things, I think, but I don't feel like life always has to be easy.

    Great post.


  9. The woman who wrote Seabiscuit suffered from some debilitating disease as well but she had to write that story. Summer is tough, but I plan to catch up on sleep in the fall :)

  10. I will definitely keep you and your mom in my prayers! Hope you have a good visit. This is a great, inspirational post. I think it's true of anything we want badly enough. I remember my husband I discussing that if we waited for the perfect time to have kids, we would never have them. I think that even if you can't find more than an hour a day to write, then an hour a day is enough. We have to do what we can and accept where we are, and just keep reaching for those dreams.

  11. In my leadership seminar, I tell the class that there's no such thing as perfect circumstances! As Jai said, you either do it or you don't. If it's a burning desire, you will make the time and move forward.

  12. I'll keep your mom, you and your family in my thoughts. Good luck.

    I have one of those crazy busy lives. I like it - but it is crazy busy. So that means I'm always squeezing in time for writing and blogging. I do what I can when I can - and enjoy it. If I tried to put deadline pressures on myself I'd go nuts! So I just enjoy it :)

  13. Great post, Jackee! It's now or never...I agree you can't put it off until a convenient time, or you'll never do it.

  14. Wow--those are incredibly inspiring stories! I didn't know that about Austen. Thanks so much for sharing these. It is really incredible the odds they faced, in a very different world than ours. Great post.

  15. I'm so sorry to hear your mom was dropped from the study. I'll definitely keep her and your family in my prayers.

    Very inspiring post, and so true! Writers write, it's just what we do. I can't imagine what a grumpy person I'd be if I tried to do without poor husband and kids!

  16. Thanks, Jackee, even if your post did almost make me cry. I didn't know that about Jane Austen, but I'm not surprised; it would fit her personality.

    I'm sorry things with your mom are up in the air.

  17. Jackee this was an amazing post! I loved learning more about writers, it also puts a new look on life when you aren't feeling the best.

    Remembering the joy of writing goes a long way!

  18. I had heard JK Rowling's story, but I had no idea about all these other writers. Thanks for sharing - this is definitely motivation to keep on writing even during this busy season of life. Also possibily related to this post, a while back I found this great post, Does depression make you a better writer?

    Sometimes after I get my kids to bed, I'm so tired I just want to curl up in my own bed with a good book, but then I think... no one will ever read MY books if I don't get up and do some writing. (Some nights it works. Sometimes it doesn't :)

    I love the Jane Yolen quote!

    I am taking a moment to pray for your mom right now.

  19. I'll keep your mom and your family in my prayers.

    I think we write because we want too.

  20. I'll keep your mom in my prayers!

    What a wonderful post - I probably spend too much time writing, as I'm just enamored with it and can't give it up. The kids complain. The cats want to be fed. And there I am, writing again.

    But I'm sure I won't wish later that I had given it my all! :)

  21. I hope your mom's health improves!

    Family always comes first. But sometimes if 15 minutes is all you have, then that's all you have. Ya know?

  22. Great, great post, Jackee! Writing is like any other major decision in life - marriage, children, a new career - there is no perfect time. :-)

  23. Thank you for such a thought provoking post!

    I find in the summer I use my notebook more because I can take it with us while my kids and I do summery stuff (and it doesn't break if dropped into the pool). Then when I'm brain dead at night, I type what I've written.

  24. P.S. Praying for your Mom. I'm sure that's scary.

  25. Hey Jackee I've awarded you with a versatile blogger award. You can come pick it up from my blog. Have a great day :)

  26. Jackee, I gave you an award, if you want it. :o)

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