Ad Astra, Day 1: Writing when you have a day job


Panelists: Marie Bilodeau; Karen Danylak; Ada Hoffman; Joel Sutherland

AH: Scheduling your writing is like another job in itself.

JS: Now that I have kids, I use my time more efficiently. I writer on my lunch hour at work.

KD: I’m in a similar situation, but I can’t write at work. I have to carve out time elsewhere. I can’t write every day either. How many of you manage to write every day?

JS: It’s not always a possibility.

AH: Some authors say that you must write everyday, but I find that advice can’t apply equally to everyone.

JS: I get depressed if I can’t, though.

AH: I think the advice might be meant to counteract the people who claim to be writers but never actually write.

JS: I commonly do what I can do. I ignore everyone else while I’m writing. I once attended a reading by a single mom with seven kids who wrote her first book on her bus commute. [Mel’s note: Joel later supplied the author’s name: Martine Leavitt.]

MB: You do what you have to, especially when your publisher has a contract for two books with six month deadlines. I did my research. I used to write in the morning. Life changed and now I write in the evenings. I do write every day. It may not be much, but I write something every day.

AH: If I’ve been away from writing for a couple of days, it takes a while for me to get back into it. I try to write every day and I find I miss it when I can’t.

KD: I beat myself up for a while. Ultimately, you have to be accountable for your choices.

MB: I burned out after Heirs of a Broken Land was complete. I couldn’t write for a while after.

JS: Full time writers often have a rich spouse or some other financial supports to rely on. A friend of mine got a $25,000 advance and I was jealous until I realized how far $25,000 goes.

AH: And what about health insurance?

KD: So the plan is to marry rich. Bose noise cancelling headphones really help me to focus. I put them on while my three kids are in gymnastics. Yes I’m that person. You have to learn to write anywhere. Don’t let Mom Guilt get you. That’s the worst. I have to leave the house sometimes, or before you know it, I’m doing laundry. I made up a Tuesday night course so I could get out of the house and write.

AH: I set myself a goal. I have to write so many words before I get to do the laundry.

MB: Writing in the evenings is more difficult than writing in the morning.

KD: “Who dropped you on your head and broke your ‘NO’ button?” You have to learn to say no.

JS: It helps if you don’t have friends.

KD: What’s your Kyrptonite (outside the day job)?

MB: Zombie novels. Netflix. Anything shiny. I write by candlelight so I don’t get distracted.

AH: I’m in a long distance relationship. When my boyfriend comes over nothing gets done.

JS: Relationships. Kids, I love reality TV.

KD: Sometimes I binge-watch something, but I have given up TV in general.

MB: What about binge writing? I’ve written for three days straight before. You get ridiculous word counts. I go to a convent, a silent retreat. They provide you with meals but otherwise leave you alone. I talk to Giant Jesus. And one time, one of the nuns scratched my ass.

KD: Sometimes I binge write, like when I’m away a cons. I’d recommend Sherry Peters, author and coach. She has an ebook: Silencing your inner saboteur. Stay off social media.

[Mel’s note: After the session, I approached Marie, whom I’d met years earlier when she came to Sudbury. We reconnected and she said the nicest thing, that she was fascinated by my journey (!) Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet up with her again before the convention was over. Online stalkage begins!]

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