Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a guest in classes taught by a colleague. As a part of her Religion & Literature courses, she assigned my poetry collection, Your Twenty-First Century Prayer Life. I visited both of her sections twice, with the one class session focused on the first half of the book and the other session focused on the second half.
The other night on Twitter, a writer vented her frustration with building her author platform via social media and how that activity takes energy from the same pool as her energy for writing. She said that she feels less able to do the slow thinking and creative work necessary in first drafts and in deep revisions.
People offered suggestions: set aside a narrow window for social media promotion and then move on; hire someone to do it; and some said not to even bother with it at all. Several people complained about their publisher pressuring them to keep building their platforms.
In the month since I finished a draft of a new story, I’ve been working intermittently on the second draft of a different short story. And as is typical of my writing process, I wrote the first draft four years ago. (It’s not uncommon for me to write drafts of stories at least a year apart.)
On Thursday night, I finished the first draft of a short story, and just as 20 years ago when I started writing fiction, I feel a thrill. I printed out a copy, wrote the date on it, and slipped it in my “Short Fiction” file folder that is 3-inches thick with drafts and revisions, pieces in varied stages of development.
I tell my creative writing students that the writing life is as much about “trade-offs” as it is about anything else. You have to give up other pursuits to write seriously. You will have to sacrifice other interests. I suspect that this message is offensive and too radical, even to my students who dream of writing “full time.”
When I was younger, I could pursue all of my interests, or so it seemed. As I’ve aged, I’ve learned that some tough choices are necessary. I can’t pursue everything I’m interested in. For one, I have a full-time job, I have a wife, I have two elementary-aged kids. Add in a number of other roles I play.