“Regardless of what the advertising campaigns may tell us, we can’t have it all. Sacrifice is not an option, or an anachronism; it’s a fact of life. We all cut off our own limbs to burn on some altar. The crucial thing is to choose an altar that’s worth it and a limb you can accept losing. To go consenting to the sacrifice.”
–Tana French, The Likeness (aka the greatest book I’ve ever read)
It wasn’t until I (finally) decided to get serious about writing that I fully understood there would have to be a decent amount of sacrifice involved. It’s not possible to hold down a full-time job and be a full-time writer without giving up something, and in most cases, many things. So I’m curious: what do you give up to write? What don’t you give up? My list below…
What I gave up to write
1. The Weekend Not the entire thing. I still try and exercise at least once and go out with friends at least once, spend time with my boyfriend, and get outside for a bit. I still watch my Patriots. But gone are my Sunday-funday 5 hour brunches and drinking binges and Saturdays of all-day shopping and errand-running. If you have a 9-5 day job during the week, like I do, the weekend is for writing.
2. DIY anything As part of my job (as a social media manager), I read a lot of blogs where people are constantly making their own jewelry, face lotions, throw pillows, candles, you name it. And that’s awesome! I love art and creativity in all its forms. But me? I will never have time to be that crafty. If I need a throw pillow or a glittery candlestick, I will order it off the internet during a break in an 8-hour writing day. Thank God for the internet.
3. Shopping I know what the trends are (I do read the blogs, after all) but rarely do I have time to go shopping every season and buy a whole new wardrobe. My clothes are usually last season (if not several seasons old), and they never look brand new. Do I wish I were more fashionable? Sure. I admire people who are. But I choose to spend my time writing instead.
4. My hair I used to spend about a half hour per day styling my long hair. Now? I usually let it air dry and put some product in it and that’s it. I don’t have time, and I no longer really care.
5. Hobbies This one sucks, but I just don’t have the time to spend on hobbies. Things like photography–I love my camera, but it took me awhile to learn how to use it. I still don’t understand all the settings. I keep meaning to teach myself photoshop–but when? I played the piano when I was little–I’d love to relearn that. I love cooking and baking, and wish I had time to invent my own recipes. You know what looks cool? Gardening. Have I ever tried it? Nope. Maybe someday when writing is my full-time job, or when I retire, I’ll have time for these things. But not today.
6. Cleaning Outsource it. We have a sweet little cleaning lady who comes every couple weeks and gets our place cleaner than I ever could. Well worth the $ and the time I save.
7. TV This isn’t entirely true–I still watch TV. But I don’t sit down on my couch and have netflix binges like other people do. I usually have something on in the background as I’m doing something else, like laundry or cooking. There’s nothing wrong with watching TV–actually, a well-written TV show is really useful for a writer. I draw character inspiration from great shows like Mad Men, Lost (the good seasons), Buffy (anything Joss Whedon, really). But I don’t watch much and don’t have time to keep up with the shows everyone else is talking about.
What I will not give up to write
1. Doing the thing that pays my bills Most writers have day jobs. I am fortunate enough to have a job that doesn’t usually require long hours–I’m out of the office by 5:30 and I make time in the middle of my day to spend an hour writing (while simultaneously eating lunch). But I’m not slacking off at my job, not at all, even though it doesn’t even come close to stirring my passions the way writing does. Respect the thing that pays your bills–but don’t let it take over your life.
2. Exercise You should never, ever sacrifice your health for anything. Even with all your writing, you must make time to exercise. But why? you ask. I want to be a writer, not a bikini model. I used to think the same thing–until a bout a couple of years ago with a nasty thing called RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury). It was one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced–about 6 months of constant pain in my arms, hands, back, and shoulders. I had to stop typing for a while, which in turn made me really depressed. Long story short, I was saved by yoga and a very skilled massage therapist. So now I do yoga at least 3 times per week and try and run for at least 2 miles on the days I’m not yoga-ing. RSI is now gone (yay!) but it could definitely make a comeback if I stop strengthening myself regularly.
3. Eating right It’s actually not hard to eat right with very little time on your hands. I like to make a batch of something at the beginning of the week and heat up leftovers for a few days. You don’t need to eat fast food to save time. Maybe I’ll do a post of my fave fast and healthy meals at some point. For now, follow my food boards on Pinterest.
4. Sleep This goes along with the other two, and I don’t think people take it as seriously as they should. You need your sleep to be healthy. I’m not about to wake up at 4 AM to get extra writing in–I do it during my regular waking hours.
5. Reading If you are a writer, you need to read, voraciously and often. This is an easy thing for me; I love reading. I read on my commute, and before bed. If you are a serious writer, you make time for reading.
6. Unwinding The aforementioned TV-watching-and-cooking. Yes, I could choose to eat take-out every night and save that precious dinner prep hour for writing. But I like cooking. It relaxes me, gives me time to think. You know what else I like? Baths. Yes, showers are shorter and more efficient. But I like my baths. Also? Football. It’s the only sport I absolutely love. Gone are the weekends sitting around with my roommates drinking and watching every game that’s on, but I still do make a point to set aside three hours for the Patriots every week during football season.
7. Spending time with the people I care about People are the most important thing in the world. You know this: you’re a writer. What would your stories be without people? You need experiences to be able to write realistic stories, and you’re not going to get them sitting around your living room typing. Don’t give up your life to write. As the master (Stephen King) says, “Life isn’t a support system for art; it’s the other way around.”
Image found here.