Are You Committed to Your Writing? Or Just "Shacking Up?"

Are you “shacking up” with your dream of writing for a living? Or are you really ready to make a commitment…like for real? In my years of working with writers, I have run across literally hundreds of individuals who claim to want to be best-selling career authors. But, over time, it soon became clear that they were more in love with the “idea” of writing than the actual work, commitment and life that went with it.

In effect, they were shacking up with their novel, enjoying the “dream with benefits.” Wink, wink, nod, nod. Don’t believe me? Hmmmmm. I have no idea why my crazy brain thought of this scenario….but it might feel painfully familiar.

Welcome to the first episode of As the Page Turns…

Novel: Why haven’t you called? Last January you said you were going to spend time with me every day.

Writer: I know Baby, and I’m sorry. I’ve been a real jerk.

Novel: I have called out to you, and you never answer. I feel like you are shutting me out. Where have you been?

Writer: You know. Busy. Work has really been a killer, and then I had some projects around the house and I’ve been meaning to spend time—

Novel: You just don’t care. You don’t care about our love anymore. I used to be your whole world. You were so excited about me and wanted to tell all your friends, and now you won’t even admit you’re a writer.

Writer: No, no, Baby don’t be like that. I’m trying to do better. I just can’t get my family to support our relationship, and my friends, well, they just don’t get my feelings for you. I’m not hiding…it’s just complicated. That’s all.

Novel: It isn’t complicated at all. Do you love me?

Writer: Of course. With all my heart and soul I love you. I knew I was born for you from the time I was small. I am happiest when I am with you.

Novel: Then help me understand, because I just don’t get it. You say you love me, that you want our future to be together, that you want to be with me all day every day, and yet you never write and you leave me alone most of the year. You won’t tell your friends and family we are in a relationship, and you only visit me when it is convenient.

Writer: No it isn’t like that…

Novel: It IS like that. When are you going to commit for real?

Writer: January 1st. I am going to give you so much attention you will get sick of me. I promise. I will even get an agent for us.

Novel: I’ve heard that before, and I’m not falling for it. Have you started blogging? A social media platform to let others know about me? About US?

Writer: Um, I was going to get to that…when I got an agent.

Novel: That isn’t a commitment. We have to build a nest for our future. Why are you so embarrassed to tell others about me?

Writer: I just, don’t want to be making a mistake. My father wanted to be a writer too and…..well it didn’t work out. He was devastated. I want to just see how it goes…in private and once we get to a certain point, then I’ll shout to the world that you and I are together, Baby I promise.

Novel: But you never spend time with me! And you won’t tell anyone I exist! And you won’t tell people you are committed to me, so they think you are available!

Writer: Baby, that isn’t true. You know I only have eyes for you.

Novel: Oh, really. What about that yoga class? Hmmm? Or the Scentsy Candle parties you agreed to host? You could have been spending time with me, but no. They thought you were available because you were playing SINGLE. Was yoga prettier than me?

Writer: Okay, now you are just being childish. Yoga and Scentsy meant nothing to me. It was a wild fling and I am just confused right now.

Novel: Well, you better get unconfused. I want a commitment or we will never work. I need an hour of your time a day and I need to know that we have a future. I need this, or me and the muse are gone. This year I am sticking my guns. I want an hour a day and I want a blog and Facebook and Twitter. I want a real demonstration that you care. That…or we are finished.

Tune in for the next episode of “As the Page Turns.” Will Writer finally give Novel the commitment she deserves? How long will Novel be content to stay in the shadows? Will Novel tell Writer she is carrying his unborn climactic scene?

Okay, I’ll stop. You guys get the point and I had way too much fun with that. Wednesday’s blog really rattled a lot of people. There is this mental block to stepping up and claiming to be a professional writer. Being a professional writer doesn’t mean that you get paid…yet. It is a mental shift. It is a shift in the relationship you have with your writing, from casual love affair to a lifelong commitment.

So are you “shacking up” with your writing or are you committed? Just like committed relationships with people have certain behaviors, commitment to being a writer does too. We can’t work on our writing only when it is emotionally gratifying for us. We have to elevate the work and slug away day after day even when it feels like we are walking barefoot across hot coals. Commitment means we make meaningful plans for the future. We invest time and resources and we let others know we are married to this future.

I’m sorry. I would love to go to the movies, but I really have to get my word count first. Can we do a later showing?

I began a novel writing workshop a year and a half ago in Fort Worth, Texas. We meet every Saturday for four hours where we guide a participant from idea to finished novel (and it is FREE). It is an innovative approach that is virtually guaranteed to create a novel that is query-ready by the end. For those who stick with the program, we have had AMAZING results. In the beginning we thought we would have a line out the door. That has yet to be a problem. Most people don’t want to give up their Saturdays….but they want to be best-selling authors. Right.

So as we make our way through the month of December and hurdle toward that New Year’s Resolution, we need to ask ourselves if we are genuinely committed to our writing, or are we just enjoying a “dream with benefits?” The answer might sting. How do you think I knew the above dialogue so well? 😀 I wasn’t always committed either. I was the world’s worst “Writing Gigolo,” drifting from genre to prettier new shiny genre. I would “commit” to one novel only to flirt with a new idea, and then drop the old novel like a hot potato. I wrote when I felt like it and when it was “good for me.” I was a bad, bad writer. A Prose Playboy of the worst sort, but I mended my ways. Even though I struggle with a wandering eye–Oooh! Scrapbooking!–I make sure I stay true to my one and only love. Novel. It takes work and sacrifice, but it is the greatest feeling in the world.

I hope to see you guys on Monday for Part 6 in the structure series. On Wednesday I am beginning a series to teach you guys how to blog effectively for platform.  For those of you who read these blogs regularly, this is an excellent beginning to true commitment. We should always be seeking ways to grow and improve our “relationship” with our novels.

So what are some of the commitment issues you guys have been facing? Some fears? Are you and your novel in couple’s therapy? Are you a “Genre Gigolo?” A “Prose Playah?” Share here and we promise not to judge :D.

Happy writing! Until next time….

Now for the blatant self-promo for you guys ready to man up and commit to this writing thing ;).

My book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media lays out a step-by-step plan that is:

  1. FREE—I appreciate that most writers are BROKE. Aside from the cost of the book, your home computer and Internet connection, every tactic in my book is completely FREE
  2. FAST—If you are super motivated, it will take you a day to build your platform’s foundation. This foundation will give you roots on the top social media sites and link them together to where they feed each other.
  3. EASY—I tested this book on my 60 year-old mother who was afraid she would delete the Internet if she hit the wrong button. She now rules Facebook. Befriend her at your peril.
  4. LOW MAINTENANCE—Aside from writing blogs, which I highly recommend that you blog, you can build and maintain a platform in less than a half hour a day. The way I teach you makes you work smarter, not harder. You have blogs and best-selling books to write!
  5. RECOMMENDED–I have built many successful platforms using the methods I teach in this book.  My book is recommended by literary agents.


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    • Kate Tate on December 3, 2010 at 3:55 pm
    • Reply

    I write every day but I am intimidated by the aspect of putting myself out there as a “real” writer since I’m not published. I have several completed manuscripts (practice), and I have one work submitted and waiting for an answer and another that I wrote for NaNo that I am editing (and surprisingly, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be for how fast I wrote). My fear, even though I know rejection is a fact of life, is that I will be discouraged and lose the discipline I’ve created in myself to hold down my regular job and still either write 1000+K daily or edit a couple of chapters a night. I guess that puts me on the shacking up but wish I could commit fence?

    1. I feel ya on that one. Sometimes we just have to take our relationship to “the next level” and it sounds like you have an excellent start. Nothing great has ever been achieved by staying in the comfort zone. When we feel fear that usually is a sign of the correct direction :D.

        • Kate Tate on December 3, 2010 at 4:06 pm
        • Reply

        I have not yet managed to be able to say (out loud or silently) “I am a good writer.” Other people have told me I am, and that feels good. I think when I can look at my stuff and say “that’s good,” and mean it I might get somewhere. I really blew a direct line to Angela James in a chat because I was so inarticulate about my own work-if I can’t sell it to ME, how do I expect to sell it to others?? (And then I read some stuff that’s been published and edit in my head after I stop cringing at how unappealing it is to read…)

        1. I would recommend finding a writing group. You are probably being too hard on your own writing. We are all our own worst critics. A writing group will give you perpective. Is your writing really all that bad? And if it is, a good writing group will tell you what is wrong. Are the characters flat? Is the dialogue canned? Is the plot silly or nebulous? Or are you just being too hard on yourself? The best thing we can do (other than committing to our dream) is to be honest and get genuine feedback and do real work to improve. Writers should always be improving. If we aren’t, then we’re dead. But if you are waiting for a “feeling” to step out and do what must be done, then you will be disappointed. You are in a self-defeating loop.

          You cannot admit your writing is good until you get outside validation (being published), yet you fear seeking outside validation which undermines getting published. See how that’s a sticky wicket? Step out in faith and just brace for what comes. No fiction author will ever please 100% of readers. It is by definition an emotionally vulnerable job. Best to toughen that skin early, ;).

      • Kate Tate on December 3, 2010 at 4:27 pm
      • Reply

      That’s what my crit partners tell me. 😉 They have no problem calling me out on something that doesn’t work. So maybe I’ll come out of the shell and admit the turtle can write. I just had a lengthy time of unemployment so am waiting on my first check but I know exactly what book I intend to get first, and it’s going to be that one by that lady…you know who I mean…about the social media route… thanks!

  1. Lol, great scene. That’s the conversation I have when I’ve started a bad novel and don’t where to go…so I move on. Then one day I open the old one it looks at me with those accusing eyes and I feel guilty, but I can say I have commited to one novel at least, so yay me. And after nine months of draft, writing, changing, rewriting, editing, I’ve finally sent it to a beta reader. I feel so helpless….lol.

  2. I love that scene! Totally made my day!

    I’ve been shacking up with my writing for years up until the beginning of this year. I would write off and on, not taking it real serious. It’s a scary thing to put your writing out there. It’s like you’re putting your soul out there on the table for all to see. For scaredy cats like me, getting with a group of writers is a great way to help overcome that fear. Knowing you always have back up helps tremendously!

    • Callene on December 3, 2010 at 7:44 pm
    • Reply

    Ok, that was one of the most brilliant pieces of satire I’ve ever read, and waaaay to close to the bone for me. I’m intimidated as hell by even admitting I’m a writer (really wanted to go back and delete that!) and how in the world do I expect other people to take me seriously when I won’t even take myself seriously? I’m completely guilty of everything in this post.

    Alright. To prove my commitment to you, novel, I’m going to finally put up a Facebook page.


    I think I need to floss the cat this afternoon…

    1. ROFL….floss the cat! Righteous! Thanks for the laugh and the compliment. I wish you and your Novel a bright future *throwing rice.* Breathe. It’s okay. Just get used to ridicule. It goes with being an artist. The world doesn’t understand us. Make sure you stop by next week for my series teaching about blogging for platform so you can show your Novel you really care, ;).

  3. I would finish my draft but not revise it. That’s my problem. I find myself saying that my work is not good enough and then quit the revision. I am my own worst critic.

    So, I decided to change my habit. I’m telling myself that I love my work–flaws and all–and that I’ll just have to fix it to make it clearer. It can’t be that bad and if it got rejected, I’ll try again. So far, it’s working. I’ll get published someday (date is tentative but I’m aiming for the end of next year ;-)) but in the mean time, I have to write and be more objective (and less critical) about my work.

    1. I hear you. Writing is a vortex for perfectionists. But what I say is this. No agent or editor ever got behind a half-finished World’s Perfect novel, but publishing houses have been known to sell a heck of a lot of Not-Quite-Perfect-But-Still-Pretty-Good-Novels 😀

      1. I’m beginning to grasp it. I’m not there yet but it’s sinking in.

  4. Brilliant post, Kristen! I would stay and say more, but I have an attractive novel up on another screen, and I don’t want it to feel neglected. All the best.

  5. Funny, of course, and too true. I recently broke off a couple of casual flings I was having on the side (French, and any sort of volunteering outside of my RWA chapter or the kids’ schools) to get serious with my true love. And while it’s hard not to have as many great excuses for procrastinating, we’re much happier together 🙂

    It was a very big deal for me to put myself out there as a writer because my father and brother were always the ‘artists’ in the family, and I was supposed to be the left-brained analytical one (my background is in science). But I finally did sometime last year and it’s been great. It’s much easier to take yourself seriously when you act and speak seriously about your craft.

    PS – I love the blatant self-promo, and would take your advice and buy the book, except…I already have! Read it cover to cover last month, and I’m in the midst of putting it’s great ideas into action. Painlessly, just like you promised 🙂 Thanks!

  6. Thanks for the great post. Often showing our writing to others is to expose our inner selves to friends and others. It is a big risk until we build up the tough skin needed to handle critical remarks. Not discussed very much is the fear of success, it is much easier to hide our light under a bushel. Success brings with it scary boogey men–like having to maintain that level of success, speaking in public, and other not so soft and furry things.

    Thanks for keeping up the pressure on us to take those risks.

  7. As the Page Turns. Heeee. Great post. I enjoyed the lover’s quarrel! 🙂

  8. Brilliant! I’ve had this conversation with my critique partners and we’ve stuck together because we’re on the same page with that commitment. You’re 100% correct!

  9. OMG I new feel do dirty. I’m such a user gigolo. So sorry to my Baby. I’ll be better I promise.

    1. LOL…I know. I was the worst Genre Gigolo, but I have mended my ways. It is a daily—Ooooh, shiny!—Where was I? Oh, yeah. It’s a daily struggle. Thanks for the comment.

    • Marwa Elnaggar on December 4, 2010 at 7:56 pm
    • Reply

    To my great shame, I’m cheating on My Novel. You see, this other novel that someone else wrote just gives me all the comfort that My Novel doesn’t. Someone else’s Novel is waiting on me hand and foot, while My Novel is all nag, nag, nag. “You take me for granted,” is all I hear from My Novel, while “Have I got a yummy surprise for you, babe,” is how Someone else’s Novel greets me when I walk in.

    *sigh* I love this post, Kristen. I’ve been reading Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, and he gives the same advice about being committed and going professional. He even goes as far as suggesting that writers who want to be professional should turn themselves into a corporation.

    1. I hear ya, LOL. I actually have War of Art on my Amazon wish list. Sounds like good advice. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  10. Smack, smack, about the head and shoulders. Thanks, girl, I needed that.

    • Pamela K. on December 7, 2010 at 2:05 am
    • Reply

    Too funny, Kristen. My muse saw your blog topic and insisted I read it. Guess I better tighten up.

  11. Kristen, you put on a fine fresh spread of honesty and good sense for writers. I’m a television professional and writer who embraces the new publishing model that’s breaking some of those hardened hearts of the book business.

    Writers, emulate Franzen’s process (isolation, discipline, thoughfulness) to get a book done, but avoid his sneer at media culture when you succeed. Franzen’s Oprah problem was no media problem. It was a Franzen problem.

    Here’s a quick little blog post for more, if you want:

    Warmest tidings,

  12. Kristen, you got me on the title of this post and I just had to read it (I shared on FB too). This scenario can really apply to so many things in my life that I put off til tomorrow. I’ve been revamping how I think about things, trying to change my life around and live for me (instead of everyone else). I’m an artist and I enjoy writing as well, but I want to do both. I’m just getting my feet wet with writing, feeling overwhelmed, but I’m going to make some new commitments and changes in my daily life. One of them being to actually read a book from cover to cover. I have a bad habit of starting a book and leaving it half finished. I’m going to read, write and draw for at least 15 minutes each (daily).

  13. Hi! I am a copywriter and today I am sick of writing. It’s all a lump of bullshit in a world that has no patience to read. So…what?

    The world loves pictures. So I am a visualizer. Writing is lengthy and boring. What can be said in one sentence is being said in a 1000 words. People are – fed up. Right?

    Lovely post.

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