Chapter By Chapter by Heather Sellers. I call it a little book because it is compact in size, but there's nothing small about the impact it's been having on my writing life. As writing-advice books go, Chapter By Chapter is not so much about how to write a book as it is about how to set up the rest of your life to make book-writing possible.
One section has set me to squirming, though. In a chapter called "Limits," Sellers writes, "The number once reason books don't get finished is this: Writers say yes to other things." [emphasis hers]
That got my attention, champion yes-sayer that I am.
Sellers continues, "Successful book writers are very rarely also: historical society presidents, garden club secretaries, book group members, room mothers, rumba instructors, feng shui consultants, yoga expert students, and leaders of the town's spring clean-up committee. When you're writing a book, you do not have time for: meetings, grant writing, sonnet competitions, sprawling vacations, breeding dogs, renovating a bathroom, honing your poker skills for the circuit, or starting a nonprofit. . . . Most of the book authors I know limit themselves to one 'extracurricular.' The key difference between successful book writers and failed, not-finishing book writers is this: When they're struggling with the book, the successful writers let the extracurriculars go, not the book-writing effort."
Wow, says I, wincing at my scribbled-on calendar where, in a typical week, choir practice vies for space with critique group and book group and museum volunteer work and church activities and manning phones at a telethon, not to mention fun things like Bunco and movies and lunch with friends, and emphatically not mentioning un-fun but necessary things like weeding the garden and scrubbing the tub. And I don't even have kids!
Let us be clear. Typically, writers don't write well in a vacuum. To write about life, we first need to experience life, which doesn't happen when we're glued to our computers.That said, when is enough enough? When is too much, too much?
I say that writing is one of my highest priorities, right after God and husband. Yet when I see a calendar filled with non-writing-related obligations and commitments, leaving little time to write more than a brief jotting here and there, I have no one but myself to blame. Me and my people-pleasing, agreeable, yessir-you-can-count-on-me ways. And my slothful "you-deserve-a-break-today" ways.
And yet, when I survey the calendar for places to cut back, there is nothing that I want to drop. Everything seems So. Very. Important. Or So. Very. Fun.
What do you think about Sellers' advice, recommending that a writer stick to one "extracurricular?" Reasonable? Extreme? What are your best tips for juggling myriad obligations and also getting your writing done?