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Permission to Delay: Writing Under Pressure

Self-published authors set their own writing goals. If you fail to write according to your schedule, you answer only to yourself. There may be outside pressure from people who mock your claim to be a “real” writer, but the biggest pressure is internal. The toughest person to answer to is your own self.

Over at Cecile’s Writers, Cecile worries about not writing when she’s worried. In a post titled “Why Bother?” she confronts her lack of output:

And why not? What’s keeping me? I can find countless excuses: I need to work extra hours; I need to spend some quality time with my boyfriend (this does seem to be a vital part in a relationship); I work all day behind a computer and I don’t feel like doing so at home as well. The list goes on.

But that’s not the real reason. Right now I’m just lost. I’ve got a job, but like many others here, it’s only temporary. The first thing most people ask me is: ‘What are your plans for January?’ – I don’t know. And then: ‘What are you looking for?’ – I don’t know. …

I’m not entirely clueless, if I could choose I would focus on my writing. However, making a living out of writing is not the easiest of choices as there are financial obligations that need to be kept in mind. (I don’t think my landlord would be considerate if I told him I couldn’t pay the rent.)

The title of this blog post at Indie Author is almost an essay in itself: “Pain and Stress Inform the Work, But Not Always Right Away, and Only If You Survive.” April Hamilton sums up what many authors are facing these days:

Writers are a sensitive lot by nature, and many of us are living through dire times. Some of you who are reading this post have recently suffered a job loss; some have been out of work for a year or longer. Some are losing—or have already lost—their homes to foreclosure. Some are coping with the loss of a loved one, divorce, a health crisis…or maybe even two or more of these major life traumas simultaneously. Some are just barely keeping the bill collectors at bay while living on a steady diet of ramen noodles and peanut butter. One day, the survivors will look back on these dark times and see them for the growth experiences they were. But not today, and not if they don’t survive.

In this later passage from her blog post, April imparts some critical advice for fellow writers:

Survival is job one, for all of us. If you don’t survive, you won’t be there to tell your stories when the crisis is over. If the pressures of your daily life are already pushing you to your limits as a human being, before you add the pressures of authorship, you need to step back. Give yourself permission to delay, though not abandon, your dreams. If you don’t, drive will turn into despair. Hope will turn into bitterness. The urge to create will turn into an urge to destroy.

Indeed. As Jane Austen wrote in her novel Mansfield Park, “We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”