I have never been one to keep score in life. It is too tricky, trying to gauge whether I am coming out ahead or not. And seriously, Life is too fickle and far more powerful so I think it best to take things as they come. However, I was thinking the other day about how much I sacrificed to reach this point in my fledgling career as a writer. What had I given up? And to be honest, I began to make a list. One. Two. Three. Four. It went on. But then I stopped. This is ridiculous, I decided. For though I gave up some things to write full-time, there had to be even more that I gained.
What I believed was lost: time with family and friends. Writing is a solitary sport. There is no one sitting by my side and sharing in the experience. To be in a creative state, I must separate myself from the people who matter and focus on the task at hand. I often say no in order to clear time for a project (or catch up on whatever I ignored while working). In the end, it is me and only me.
What I actually gained: self-awareness. There is a rare happening which comes from spending countless hours alone. I become more in-tune with who I am. I better understand my goals, my dreams. The things I truly want in life rise to the surface because I am limited in how much time and attention I can give them. Writing makes me a better wife and mother. Sharing my work connects me to family, friends, and even strangers on an entirely new level. It is who I am and when people read my work, they immediately know me.
What I believed was lost: confidence in my ability. Whenever I share a new project, my fear of failure increases a thousand-fold. I have that glorious blip of a moment where I shout "it is done, it is here!" and what often follows is pure and humbling silence. There are no ticker-tape parades, no tag-lines on the evening news. I have just invested the whole of myself into a book and no one seems to notice.
What I actually gained: pride in my accomplishment. Regardless of whether someone reads my work or not, I have created a legacy. There is an indescribable pride which comes from knowing I leave my writing behind for my son, his future family, my friends, my relatives. Some day when I am no longer here, they will carry an incredibly unique and personal part of me with them here on earth. I do not write for accolades. I write for others like me who need to know life can be stupid and hard to understand, but it can also be lovely and rewarding.
What I believed was lost: the opportunity to do other things. In order to effectively create, I spend a lot of time drafting, editing, formatting, publishing, marketing, social networking, on legalities, etc. It is not technically a full-time job, but many days it feels like one. There is a delicate balance to the tasks and in the past five years, I have adapted a schedule suitable for our family. But to follow this schedule, I must put off or miss out on other activities. House projects are often the first to suffer, then socializing, and lastly fun.
What I actually gained: an understanding of what truly matters. I no longer worry about saying no to something or someone, particularly if it does not fit the life we envision as a family. I keep distractions to a minimum while I am working, knowing there will come a day when I can focus on them again. I have learned to prioritize and gift what little free time I have to the people and activities which are most needful at the time. My family is what truly matters, not a busy life.
Choosing to share my writing over the years has not always been the easiest decision, but it certainly qualifies as one of the best. Yes, there have been things I have lost along the way, but I would gladly sacrifice portions of my life in order to get something so much greater...