As an author and a family man I’ve found that writing and working a day job can be extremely hazardous to my health. As the years go by, my wife and I have determined that with the effort it takes to be an indie author, I’m working the equivalent of a second job. I never thought of it that way, but then again, I’ve just recently crossed over from the self-pubbed world into the do-it-all-myself world…a world that’ll snatch you away from your family if you’re not careful
When you take on the task writing a novel (Hello! That’s a job in itself!) and contracting an editor, working with editor, cover art, formatting, marketing, blogging, uploading etc, etc, etc, you tend to have a little too much on your plate. If you have a day job, it’s even worse. If you have a family, worse yet!
I have four children and a wife and plenty of chores to do. I’m no different than other writers with responsibilities. Scott Nicholson might have to feed the chickens and repair the barn, but I’ve got a basement to remodel and boys who need to be taught how to cut the grass and a daughter who has a lot of questions that she needs me, and only me to answer! Aaaauuuuughh!
I love my family dearly and I would never put writing above them, but I have had to learn that I can’t be the dad and husband that I want to be if I let writing consume me. Now you might be thinking that this is the point where I bring up time management for writers, or a four point system for prioritizing your prose. If so, you’re wrong. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to organize. Every minute is already full. I’m not sure, but I think I’ve already micro-managed my time. What I want to talk about is how indie authors have to fight to be present at home.
If you’re an indie, and you have a family, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Have you ever been told, “You’re here, but you’re not really here!” or “I know you were listening, but did you hear me?” or how about this one, “I don’t want you to be here, I want you to be present, not just physically but mentally and emotionally.” Sound familiar?
These are all reminders to me that I’ve let writing consume my life. It’s not so much the writing that gets me; it’s the twittering, blogging, facebooking and kindle-ranking obsessions that take over my though life when I have family business to tend to. The extra activities aren’t bad things, but I have certain goals for my family, certain objectives that I’d like to accomplish with those four kiddies before they become adults. When I’m constantly thinking about what I should tweet, or who I can promote on a Saturday morning, or if I’m caught up on my blog tour, I’m not thinking about what I really need to be doing in my home, with my wife and kids. I’ve always been keen on my family. They mean everything to me. But writing, writing and everything that goes with it, especially with indie publishing, can take a serious toll on me if I’m not present when I’m at home.
Okay, now I’ll tell you my Four Point Path for Positive Presence (That’s psycho-babble for how to manage your family and be an indie author).
1. Before you write, get all of your chores done. My wife educates our children and teaches piano and does 80% of the chores that keep our home functioning. I do the laundry, pick up the house, make repairs and help with meals and keeping the kitchen clean. I will not write if the sink is full of dishes or the laundry needs done; it’s not fair to my wife and I need clean clothes. When the house is clean, I don’t have to worry about my wife feeling like everything rests on her shoulder.
2. Frequently take your spouse on dates. My wife needs time to talk to me. She needs to keep me updated on the state of our children, the state of our extended family, our schedule, children’s events, etc. She also needs to be with an adult and get away about once a week. I cannot give her what she needs if all I’m doing is writing or thinking about writing stuff. When we go out, I leave my writing world behind. As expected, when she’s talked herself back into a state of sanity, she’ll inevitably have the energy to ask about my writing…our evil, yet beloved stepchild.
3. Turn the computer & iPhone off. When it’s time to be with the family, I literally have to turn my world off. Clicking the switch on my phone and powering down my computer is the best way for me to make a conscious choice to be present with my precious little boogers.
4. Make an agreement with your spouse. I have found that good communication is always the best way to avoid hurt feelings. As writers, we need to be aware that our second job (writing) can very quickly pull us away from our families. And your family will most likely notice that you’re no longer present before you do. Your emotional absence can cause hurt feelings if your spouse or children begin to think that your writing is more important than they are. If that’s not what you want, than you should make an agreement with your spouse/family on what times work best for you to write and how you can meet their needs without neglecting your literary masterpiece. The key is to talk about it before your writing spills over and makes a mess of your life.
The point is, when you write… write. And when you need to be with your family… be with your family. They need you more than your book does. There are thousands of books published everyday and your book will be just as much a tiny drop of water in the ocean of words today as it will be a week or month from now.
If you’re a newer author, heed these words. If you’re a veteran, tell us how you manage to be present at home. Thanks for reading.
Author of Reunion & Other Thrillers (linked to http://jeffbennington.com)
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004S7AR0E