“If you don’t need to be a writer, don’t.” I’ve heard this advice and found more than a little merit in it: writing as a career involves long hours, hard work, constant uncertainty, and sometimes worse.
Sometimes, it hurts.
When I went to Superstars in 2010, having come to a point in my life where I no longer found fanfiction fulfilling and hoped to create and sell original stories, I was working a night-shift security job, 11 pm to 6 am. My duties were simple: assist customers who needed help, answer the phone, and tour the building once an hour. The rest of the time? Do what you like, as long as it’s quiet and keeps you awake.
Writing fit the bill. So did role-playing, and social media, and chatting online, and all sorts of other things. I had time to burn, time in which I got paid, wrote thousands of words each night, had an active online social life, and still had family time on my off hours.
This whole scenario changed when I took up an office management job. Suddenly, every hour of my workday was spent…doing work. I no longer had long swaths of paid time when I had nothing else to do. Suddenly, writing and socializing were in direct competition with family time and housework.
Suddenly, sacrifices had to be made.
I didn’t want to be a hobby writer. I didn’t want to be that person who only writes when he feels like it, or who puts writing at the bottom of her to-do list and wonders why she never gets around to it. I had to carve out dedicated writing time to focus on my goals. That meant I had a lot less time for role playing and marathon video-game sessions and movie-watching parties and fandom.
Yes, I lost friends.
Friends who felt I wasn’t giving enough to the friendship. Friends who complained that I wasn’t available enough, that I was too hard to get ahold of. Friends who thought I wasn’t any fun any more. Friends who didn’t understand when six-hour visits turned to one-hour visits.
There was a point when I was on the verge of asking myself whether writing as a career choice was worth it. Maybe I should do what other people did, work my 9-5 and let my evenings and weekends be my own. Maybe I should be a hobby writer, get my friends back and spend my spare time hanging out and chilling out. Was it worth being a writer if I lost touch with everyone I cared about?
Then I made a list of who stayed.
My husband stayed. My best friend stayed. Several of my online role-playing friends stayed, telling me that “no game was more important than real life” and that they supported me. We’d play more slowly, that was all, posting every few days instead of multiple times a day.
A former co-worker and some local friends stayed, telling me that yes, they absolutely understood that I had a previous writing commitment when I couldn’t accept a last-minute invitation or declined to attend an event. And no, they didn’t stop inviting me to things. They just understood when I had to say no. It wasn’t about me not liking them any more, or losing my previous interests, or “getting an attitude.” It was about me having a job, just like they did. A job that sometimes has to come before fun.
When I looked at the list of people who stayed, I realized that I wasn’t driving away the most important people in my life.
I still miss some of the friendships and good times that my writing career has cost me, but I know that I still have the people who care about me and support me.
This Yule Solstice, I’m thankful for the people who stayed. For the friends who stood by me when writing became a job, not a hobby. For the people who understand when I have to put in the long hours. You are the reason this need of mine hasn’t cost me everything else I care about. Your understanding–and support–is my greatest gift.