Today I will miss an extended deadline on a manuscript – the original one was the end of March. I have lived my entire life meeting deadlines – school assignments, court dates, hearings schedules, client demands, and now editorial/publishing deadlines. And I have always prided myself on keeping my word – if I’ve said it will be done or agreed to a deadline, I will meet it. Because of that, missing today’s “ultimate” deadline on a manuscript has caused some soul searching. Have I allowed other things to interfere with my writing? Am I a bad person, a failure for having done that? Has this all been just a grand, six year “playtime” for me, and I actually don’t have the commitment necessary to be a writer?
The answers to those questions is a matter of perspective. That is, there will always be those in the writing world who don’t see me as a “real” writer because (pick your reason):
- I do not have a degree in English literature or creative writing;
- I don’t write literary fiction;
- I write only one novel per year and have to write at least three or four to be credible;
- OMG! I write one novel per year and any worthwhile novel takes years or even decades;
- I write cross-genre stuff – it isn’t hard sci fi nor epic fantasy;
- I don’t use big words that readers will need to look up;
- I don’t dress up in costumes at author appearances;
- I don’t write using software specifically designed for writing a novel …
There are a hundred other conventional “words of wisdom” in the writing world – measures to determine whether or not I am doing it “right.” No answers lie there, so I have to look to myself.
Why isn’t the novel finished? Certainly being sick for over a month is one of them. My original indecision of whether to write this novel or another added to the delay. And there is the speed and nonlinear path my mind takes – sometimes that percolating process cannot be sped up. But there is also another reason, one that I sometimes beat myself up over: being pulled away from writing to attend to my friends, the house and garden, my family, etc. Yet, it’s this last group of “delays” for which I am grateful.
The world exerts pressure on me to push those life interruptions aside in favor of work. As a lawyer and now as a writer, it rewards me with feelings of dedication and commitment when I do so. It tells me I am good and worthwhile. But in the end, which is more important? Which would give me comfort or regrets on my death bed? I know my answers to these questions – regardless of whether the world calls that a lack of commitment.
I will continue to allow life to interfere with my writing. I won’t put the important things on a shelf for the mythical “someday” when I have time for them. I’ve done that enough. The novels will get finished, even if a bit late. Readers will read them or not – something over which I have no control. But, either way, my family and friends will be here with me.