The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Seventy-Six
It’s Monday and That Means……
It means, of course, that the Mailbag has arrived.
I honestly don’t know what I would do without the Mailbag. It has become second-nature for me to answer questions over the weekend and send out the Mailbag on Mondays. If I didn’t have the Mailbag I’d have to come up with a new idea for an article each week and that just might overload my pea-brain.
So thank the gods for the Mailbag. Let’s get started with a question from South America about setting priorities.
My book on writing
From Blond: “This morning I was thinking about priorities. Which writing tasks should be done first? I wonder if you have a set routine.
For me, I tend to do any writing jobs where the money is on the table. Yes I am referring to content mills (I know you hate them).
Then own websites/blogs, and lastly the two half finished books which have a thick coating of virtual dust gathering on them.
Somewhere in the grey matter are hubs waiting to be written as well.
So what is your secret? Just backside on chair?”
Blond, this is a question I’ve been asked before. Evidently some people seem to think I have more hours in a day, or more days in a week, but the truth is I’m just an ultra-organized human being. Some people would call me anal and that might also be the truth.
I designate each day of the week for certain writing chores and projects. Mondays are only for new articles and Hubs. Tuesdays are only for customers and paying gigs. Wednesdays and Thursdays are for my novels and Fridays are for odds and ends I didn’t get to during the week. Now, as many of you know, I just returned to the workplace and I’m working about 4-6 hours three days a week, so I’m forced to condense my writing week. I still do only articles on Mondays but I don’t do as many as I once did. Tuesdays and customer gigs are non-negotiable and I don’t work my part-time job that day. As for my novels, I work on them in the hours I have remaining after the part-time jobs.
So I still follow basically the same writing schedule; I just don’t get as much done as I once did before the outside part-time work.
I hope that helps.
From Eric: “Hey now after you finish and publish an article do you feel really high and then low because you miss writing it? If you have this happen maybe I am not off the deep end - emotionally speaking, at least partially.”
What an interesting question, Eric. Honestly no, not on articles, but I do feel those emotions after finishing a novel. With a novel, I’ve invested about six months of my life, so there is naturally some emotional fallout after finishing one…so I do understand what you are talking about.
As for articles, the emotions I most often feel with them are pride when I’ve really written a dynamite article, or I’ve had a few sentences in an article that I consider outstanding….or I’ve written about a topic that I feel very strongly about and I’ve left my heart out there to be stomped on. A couple years ago I wrote an article about child abuse on a reservation in North Dakota. It was hard-hitting and emotionally exhausting and believe me, I had a lot of emotions after finishing that one.
What I will say without hesitation is writers should sure as hell feel something when they write. If they don’t then what’s the point in writing?
From Brian: “What are your strategies for getting writing done in between working a day job and running an urban farm? (Ok to wait to answer till you've had some on the job experience.)”
Actually, Brian, I’ve been working this part-time job for a few weeks now, so I can answer this now.
I admit, taking on a part-time job really threw me for a loop for about a week. I had no idea how I was going to get everything done. I envisioned my novels dying a slow death and my articles suffering as well. What I found out is I have another gear. Evidently I’ve been coasting along in fourth gear and come to find out I have a fifth.
I’m making light of it but that’s actually what happened. I just kicked it up a notch and I’ve managed to fall into a nice routine and I’m getting things done. What has suffered just a bit is my commenting on the articles of others. The past two weekends it has been practically impossible to comment on those articles, so if you post an article on Saturday or Sunday, I apologize in advance because I probably won’t get to it.
Why Writing Is Important
From Ann: “Question: How would you explain to someone who doesn't understand exactly what it is to be a writer and why it's important? I find people just change the subject or gloss over it quickly!”
And now, Ann, we get down to the nitty gritty, don’t we?
I’ve pondered this question many times. I’ve had discussions with Bev and with my stepsons, who are both musicians, about this topic. I’m not sure it can be answered with one or two stock sentences, and I think it is just subjective enough to be different for many people.
For me…and this is just for me and no one else….since I was a little kid I have wanted to make a difference. I didn’t want to be famous but I did want to pass through this life having counted for something. Writing allows me to do that. I can touch the lives of people through my words. I can communicate with thousands of people around the world. I can establish a connection with complete strangers and I can help them to smile and laugh, and I can show empathy when they are crying. This is important to me. Whatever gift I’ve been given as a writer allows me to, in a small way, shrink this world and make it less scary.
That’s my first answer. What is it to be a writer? Again, this is just me answering. Being a writer is frustrating….it is, at times lonely….it is emotionally exhausting….and it is the greatest high I’ve ever experienced. When I find the perfect combination of verbs, nouns, adverbs and adjectives, and that combination tells a beautiful, meaningful story or moves a reader emotionally, it is…it must be…like taking that first hit of heroin. I am a word junkie and I must satisfy my hunger.
Why is it important? Have you noticed that society has become more isolated on an individual level? Yes we have social media, but in a way, that’s an isolationist’s dream come true. One can stay in contact without actually “contacting” anyone. People text constantly but rarely actually talk to anyone. People lock themselves in their homes afraid of what’s outside, and live in their gated communities.
Writers combat that isolationism. We bring the world closer. We reach out to those who need us and we make human connections. We tell people they are not alone. We tell people that what they are feeling we are feeling. We entertain with our stories and share compassion and comfort.
The only question I have to your question, Ann, is why wouldn’t we be writers?
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This Writer’s Final Thoughts
My wife and I are hurting financially right now….it’s temporary but it is real as the holidays approach. I saw on the news last week that the school districts are desperate for substitute teachers and, well, I could be in a classroom one day after making a phone call, and I could make $140 per day doing that. Problem solved for us financially, right?
But I’m already working another part-time job, and if I took on substitute teaching I would literally have to stop writing.
And I won’t do that. And my wife won’t let me do that.
Writing is too important to give up even for a couple months.
Ann, that’s the best answer I can give to your question.
Writing is too important to give up.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”