Friday, April 3, 2009

What Are Your Roadblocks?

Today I have a lovely guest blogger - Cara Marsi. Cara's the author of Logan's Redemption, an excellent contemporary romance. She has some great insights into what might be keeping you from succeeding! Visit Cara at www.caramarsi.com.

We all have those pesky little roadblocks in our lives. You know what they are: those people or things that prevent you from doing what you want, or need, to do. Roadblocks are all around us, seductive little imps tempting us into throwing away our precious time. It takes a strong will to fight the imps. And sometimes those enticing little devils are us.

There are roadblocks in the corporate world and in our personal lives, but today we’re going to talk about those things and people that keep you, a writer, from writing.

What’s on your roadblocks list? What’s keeping you from sitting at that computer and writing? Why are you reading this when you should be writing?

When I worked full-time, my biggest obstacle was my job. A corporate drone and cubicle dweller, I was forced into a dreary existence eight hours a day when I wanted to be home in my imaginary world, writing. Darn day job interfered with my creativity. Despite that, I managed to complete five novels (two published so far) and two short stories (one published so far). It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fast, but I did it. I always told myself that if I didn’t have to work, I’d write more and I’d write faster.

I’ve recently been downsized from my job. No more cubicle eight hours a day. So, how am I doing with the roadblocks thing? Not so good. What are my biggest obstacles now? My husband and myself. Actually my husband isn’t so much a roadblock, but rather it’s my reaction to him that is.

He’s retired and home all day. Underfoot, one might say. Not a book lover, he can’t understand my passion for reading and writing. Although he doesn’t say it very often, he’d rather I spend my time with him than at the computer. So I feel guilty. And the very fact that he’s around distracts me. It’s a balancing act between family and writing, and one I’m still trying to work out. I could write all day, every day, and never come up for air. But then I wouldn’t have a life. And I probably wouldn’t have a marriage. So I try to compromise. A little writing, do stuff around the house, spend time with my husband. I think we all agree that family comes first, yet for our mental health and well-being, we have to make time for ourselves, including pursuing our passion for writing. I wonder how other writers handle the family versus writing thing.

Another obstacle: my husband and I share one computer, my laptop. Some days when I’m working at the computer dear hubby paces the room, asking how much longer I’m going to be because he needs to check his email or the Internet. At the end of February I bought him a mini-laptop for his birthday. It’s not set up yet, but once it is, the two-people, one-computer problem will be licked. I hope. I highly recommend more than one computer in a household.
For the past year my laptop rested on the breakfast room table--a very busy area filled with distractions. When I found myself suddenly home during the day, and writing, I knew something had to give. We converted the guest room into an office, complete with fresh paint and a new desk. Having my own space to write has helped tremendously.

A smaller roadblock for me is housework. The thing I hate about housework is that you need to keep doing it. For God’s sake, can’t the dust stay off the furniture for at least six months? My husband does his share of work around the house, but there’s still plenty for me to do. I can hear everyone saying, “Housework? Who does housework?” I know, but when the dust bunnies commandeer the bedroom and attack the cat, I’ve got to do battle. So housework cuts into my writing time.

My biggest roadblock by far is myself. When I worked and had less time, I learned to make every minute count. You’d be surprised how much writing I could get done on a one-hour lunch break. Now that I have lots of time, I find excuses not to write. I check email, peruse the Internet, make a few phone calls. And I’ve added another time gobbler—I’ve just joined Twitter. Having too much time can be bad, very bad. I tell myself, “I’ve got time. I’ll write later.” But sometimes later doesn’t come. I wonder how other writers fight this particular demon. I need a schedule, but I was on a schedule during my years of fulltime work. I’m sick of schedules. However, I work best on deadlines and schedules, so I will get organized. I promise. As soon as I dust the living room and check Twitter.

Many writers find that their families and friends sabotage their writing time, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly. I once knew of a woman who was said to be an excellent writer. Everyone who read her work predicted she had the talent to have a successful writing career. But her husband and children resented the time she spent writing. And they were openly hostile about it. They wanted her at their beck and call. She gave up writing. This is not an unusual occurrence, especially for women. If you really want to write, you’ve got to fight the family attempts at sabotage. Some female writers, perhaps out of inborn guilt, won’t assert themselves and say no to family and friends.  

Some spouses and friends are very good at finding subtle ways to undermine a writer’s time. The husband just happens to make plans for them to do something together on the very day that the writer needs to sit down and work on a project. Or friends call constantly, just to talk, or cajole the writer to go shopping or out to lunch. When friends and family know you’re home during the day, they feel your time is their time. This is where we writers need Caller ID and an answering machine. And we need to learn to say “No.” Firmly. Don’t answer that phone unless it’s the State Police telling you there’s a chemical leak and the neighborhood has to evacuate.

I did a poll of writer friends and asked what roadblocks kept them from writing. A few said lack of confidence in their writing or their need for perfection keeps them editing and editing and not moving forward. They feel that whatever they’ve written is never good enough. This is a real hurdle and one that will take work and determination to overcome. But it can be overcome.

I understand the role fear can play in keeping us from completing and submitting our stories. I’ve just finished a paranormal romance that I should have submitted to editors and agents months ago. I keep tweaking it and coming up with reasons why I have to wait just a little longer. I’m afraid to let my baby go because that means the rejections will start coming. I know I’m supposed to think positive, but in my mind I keep seeing those rejection letters or rejection emails. I plan to stock up on red wine and potato chips, my comfort food of choice.
Negativity can be a real obstacle. One time, in an effort to enlist Fate’s help to sell my books and wipe out my negativity, I performed a ritual using a Native American sage stick. I got the sage and the idea from a shaman, who also happens to be the woman who waxes my eyebrows. At her instruction, I lit the stick and waved it over pages of two manuscripts spread on the bed. I asked that all bad vibes be cleansed from the manuscripts and only good and positive thoughts cover them. I dropped the stick while it was lit and almost set my bed on fire. Not a good sign. One of those manuscripts did get published, but the other is locked away forever. Did the ritual work? Maybe, maybe not. I’m willing to try almost anything once.

Other writers are struggling to write while holding down fulltime jobs and raising young children. My son is an adult now, but I didn’t start writing seriously until he was eleven. I don’t know if I could have written when he was very little. Many women with small children make the time to write. It takes a lot of work and perseverance for these writers to continue and they deserve our respect. An obstacle for some stay-at-home writer moms is volunteering. They’re committed to volunteering at their children’s schools, or in their communities. It’s important that we give back to our schools and our communities, but at times volunteering becomes another roadblock. Busy moms, who refuse to let the dream of being a published author die, yet find time for volunteering, also deserve our support.

Other writers have told me they get leg and back pains from sitting at the computer so long. This is a problem that I’ve not encountered, but a potentially serious one, on many levels. Imagine if you could only sit for a short period every day. How much writing would you get done? Your health is important, and whether or not you have a bad back, you need to get up from that computer during the day and move around.  

I’ve told you what some of my roadblocks are. What are some of yours and what have you done to resolve them?

25 comments:

  1. Cara, what a wonderful post. I do have problems with roadblocks. Mostly the negativity that is inherent in the industry - but also that I tend to be weak to temptation ... not so much the family, but the horses. I've noticed that as several of my foals have matured and I'm spending more time conditioning and competing, it's been harder to keep pace with the writing.

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  2. My husband only works four days a week, so I know what you mean. Today he was off and I hardly wrote anything. I'm still determined to write at least 5 pages today.

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  3. Hi Cara. Great post. We met at the NJRW conference and I wish you tons of sales. Roadblocks are certainly pesky, aren't they? I try to organize my time, which often goes astray. On the weekends, when not crazy with other full-time responsibilities, I sit in my breakfast room with my laptop and cram as much writing in as I can. I use weeknights for editing until the WIP is finished. Then that weekend time becomes uninterrupted editing time. It is easier to write with grown children, and family did try to try to sabotage a lot, but now that my first novel is out there, they've become the cheering section for my private writing time. But boy, can I relate to those leg and back pain issues.
    Great post.
    Mickey Flagg

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  4. Sue L, Edie and Mickey,

    Thanks for stopping by and posting. I enjoyed your comments. We all have those pesky roadblocks. I'm glad I'm not the only one. And Mickey, I remember you from the NJRW conference. It's good to hear from you again.

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  5. Great article Carolyn. I think you've hit every road block for me right on the head. Since I work full time and have small children and a husband who doesn't get the writing thing, I have to steal time away from sleep. No wonder by Friday I'm zonked out. My one compromise though was getting a cleaning lady. So now I only have to pick up, do laundry and shop on the weekends:)

    Kim Watters

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  6. Kim, my friend, thanks for stopping by. I envy you the cleaning lady, but it's good you've gotten help with the housework.

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  7. I can so get the husband problem. However, mine doesn't help, is constantly talking, we live in a small,(very small), house, and he won't go away!
    Got any advise when you have a goon in the house?

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  8. I've found that the only way to move forward with my writing is to maintain a work schedule inside my home office and keep the door closed. I turn off the Internet, ignore my phone, and tell my family I'll see them at a particular time. There's a Do Not Disturb sign on my office door--and I use it. Even the dog knows to wait outside the door until I emerge. It's been tough getting the message through, but I'm determined to have a successful writing career.

    Best--Adele Dubois

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  9. Mary

    Thanks for posting. It's nice to know I'm not the only one with a "husband problem." I don't know how to make him go away. I've tried.

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  10. Adele,

    Thanks for visiting and posting. I have do not disburb sign also for my door, but hubby doesn't always obey it. I need to ignore the Internet and email also.

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  11. Hi Carolyn!
    Great post! I enjoyed hearing about your roadblocks---I've got loads in my life :)

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  12. Carolyn, your roadblocks sound a lot like mine except for the husband. Mine works and when he is home, he reads, watches TV, or works on his own writing projects. So I have lots of alone time, sit in front of the computer a lot, and still don't make much progress because I do other things, like classes and too much e-mail.

    Adele has the right idea--I need a schedule.

    And he still hasn't set up that netbook! I can't imagine having only one computer in the house.

    Maybe you should take the laptop and go to the library or a coffee shop for a few hours every day.

    Great post.

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  13. Ellen and Ann,

    Thanks for visiting and posting. Ann, you have a good idea about taking the laptop and going to a coffee shop for a few hours. I may take you up on that. I'm trying to get some sort of schedule too as Adele suggests.

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  14. Carolyn, my biggest problem is my lack of self-discipline. I have a terrible time sticking to any schedule I try to set for myself. Thanks for posting this great blog for me!

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  15. Hi Carolyn. I laughed out loud about the sage stick cleansing ritual. That sounds like something I would do! Glad you didn't set the bed on fire and that you got one of those mss published. I sure enjoyed your last book and hope you'll see another published soon. You're on my automatic buy list!

    Roadblocks are usually internal for me, but I do have lower back problems and some days, I can't sit or stand for any length of time. I have a laptop holder that allows me to lay down and type so that's a blessing.

    Thanks to Lynn for spotlighting Carolyn! And as always, Carolyn, I enjoyed reading about your thoughts on the writing life.

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  16. Great posting today, Cara. You hit the nail on the head with all those roadblocks. I stopped writing to devote time to my growing family and am now playing catch-up for all those missed years. Fortunately, I have a supportive husband and kids who all cheer me on when those rejection letters come in. Maybe because the kids are artists and understand how important it is to never, ever give up!

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  17. Misty and Robin,

    Thanks for visiting. And Misty, I'm glad you liked my book. Hopefully I'll have another sale soon. You're on my buy list too. And Robin, I'm glad you're back to writing. I loved critiquing your work and I hope to see your book in print soon.

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  18. Lynn

    Thank you for having me as a guest today. I've enjoyed it. I look forward to reading your book from The Wild Rose Press.

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  19. Cara, I agree on the cleaning--I know I'm at a 'trouble' spot in my ms when I want to clean. Yuck. I'm luck my dh is supportive, and the kids mostly so, but they just want their mom. My roadblock is feeling I should be doing some promo when I'd rather be writing. Although, when I'm writing something new, I find it easy to say "No" to other things and let life go by the wayside. Not good when I consider the kids.

    Night!

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  20. Hey, I feel your pain! My three sons take turns trying to oust me from my computer. No amount of threats can sway them from their pursuits. The minute I stand up, one sits down. Hee hee. I too find that the more I have to do, the more I get done, writing included. I find it hard sometimes to balance the scales, but am working on it. Good interview.

    Patsy
    P. L. Parker

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  21. Excellent post, Cara! I've encountered every one of those roadblocks at one time or another. It's amazing how you think more time is the answer and then when something happens, like you no longer have that pesky day job, and before you know it, something else has come to fill that empty space, like water fills a glass, or any available space. Time management is my biggest challenge now that I am at home during the day.

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  22. Patsy, Stacey, and Liana, my fellow WRP authors, thanks for visiting and posting. It's good to know that we all share some common time management problems (thanks,Liana, for putting it that way). And Patsy, I thought I was the only one who had to fight to use the computer. And Stacey, I think you're write that if we stop to do housework, it means we're stuck on our mss. Sometimes I find the boring work of cleaning frees my creative muse.

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  23. I'm blessed to have a supportive husband and family...I feel so badly for those who don't. Although life in general gets in my way!

    Tessy

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  24. Hi, Tessy,

    Thanks for visiting. You are very blessed to have such a supportive husband.

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  25. Hi Cara, chiming in a little late here. Boy, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only who is her own worst enemy! My family is great, I have all the right equipment (ahem, computer equipment), and I work from home, so have quite a bit of control over my time. If only I had more discipline! Or needed less sleep, I'd get more of everything done.

    Lately, I'm using a timer for different tasks, and that has really helped. I tend to be task oriented, which means I will keep working on something until it is done. But some things are NEVER done. Like cleaning, like you said. That has to be done again and again. My goal is to afford a cleaning lady. That would be great.

    With the timer, I work on whatever it is, even my writing, for a set amount time, and then I stop. Most of the time.

    Oh well, I guess we are all works in progress!

    Thanks for a great post.

    Candace

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