Writing a sequel should be easy, right? I mean, I already know my characters and what’s at stake for them. Jonathan and Ian are like sons to me by now, and I know the logical next step for them to take. This should be a piece of cake, right?
For the past two months I’ve been locked in a battle with myself and my characters. I’ve started the sequel to Caught in the Crossfire about half a dozen times only to pull away and stop writing each and every time. This has never happened to me before so it really had me baffled and more than a little alarmed. It even affected my desire to write this blog (as you can tell ~ my last entry was written in late October!). You see, I wanted to share all my successes and inspiration with you. But sharing the hard stuff? The barrenness of what it feels like when the muse has apparently taken a permanent vacation elsewhere? Um, no, I didn’t want to let you in on that. And that’s really not fair to either of us. My life as a writer is just like your life. It has its ups (oh those are sweet!) and it has more than its share of downs (yup, those are pretty sucky too). So, please accept my apology. I’ve let the literary dust gather on this blog as I’ve tried to find my way through this writer’s block, and I’ve not allowed you to walk the tough road with me. That’s something I won’t do again . . . whatever comes my way on my journey as a writer.
I did finally figure out what was behind my writer’s block. It was nothing big. Nothing insurmountable. Just a little matter of LIFE getting in the way.
Like most writers I know, I’ve been juggling two lives. A professional “day job” life that pays the bills and a private life that fuels my writing. This past year has been a whirlwind as opportunities presented themselves to me in both of my lives. My first book caught the attention of a wonderful literary agent who has high hopes for it as she prepares it for submission to publishing houses.
“How long will it take before we hear anything?” I asked her, a newbie to this world.
“Hard to say, but six, maybe eight weeks at the earliest. This is a typical reading time for publishers. In the meantime, write that sequel!” she replied.
So I started to write book 2. But my life had changed since I first sat down to write Caught in the Crossfire. I’d assumed more responsibilities at work and was putting in longer days. As I returned from work and stared at my computer, spent and exhausted, I began to realize that I’d let my life slip out of balance. It happened slowly as it always does. It would have been unnoticeable if it weren’t for the telltale sign that my writing had ground to a halt.
I had always known that I’d reach a time in my life when I’d have to make a choice between my professional career and my writing. The sensible me said that the timing to cut back on hours would be when my first book sold. That way I could justify making the change because I’d be earning money as a writer. Reasonable, right?
Sure. Except that I’d forgotten that God’s plans and timing are not man’s. Not mine.
A long sequence of events unfolded in my life in a way that I could never have organized. Within one week our house refinance was finalized and my husband was offered a new position, which created more wiggle room in our budget. An amazing opportunity presented itself to me to change jobs and work half-time. HALF-TIME! This is TOO SOON! I worried. My first book hasn’t even sold yet, I argued with myself.
“What do you want to do more than anything else?” My sage husband asked me.
“I want to write books for kids whose voices are not listened to nearly enough.” It was an answer that sprang from the deepest desire of my heart, which is exactly where God planted it.
“Then do it. Take that job and get your butt back in the chair and write.” He’s a good man, isn’t he? Yeah, I think so too.
“Do you think we can make it work?” I still worried. My husband and I took a scrutinizing look at the budget and found that with some sacrifices, we could make it happen.
This too was a blessing. It forced me to decide just how important my writing is to me. Is it more important than cable TV? ABSOLUTELY. Is it more important than going out to eat for steak and lobster? NO QUESTION. Manicured nails? Expensive hair cuts? Things of the past. I said goodbye to all of the extras as my excitement mounted.
I took the job.
Bid farewell to my fine friends at my previous job who understood and cheered me on (they are so dear to me!). My husband even sacrificed his man cave downstairs and set up a writer’s studio for me. (His man cave moved upstairs to the tiny guest bedroom and he calls it his manhole now!) My son rallied the family and got everyone to chip in on a Keurig Machine for my studio. Good writing is, after all, the conversion of caffeine to words!
It has been three weeks since I made the transition from working full-time to part-time. What can I tell you? The words are pouring like wine at a wedding and I’m seven chapters into the sequel.
I’ve also realized during these past three weeks that a big part of my writer’s block stemmed from my unwillingness to let my main character suffer as he becomes the target of brutal bullying. It is the next logical step for the story arc to take, but I find writing it to be almost too painful. This realization makes me determined to write it because if it’s that hard to write, how terrible must it be to actually experience?
I don’t know what the future holds. Who does? But this much I do know . . . I’m going to keep living my life in balance, seeking to listen to His direction for my life and my work and sharing each step (joyful or painful) with you. You’re part of this too and I’m so very glad that you are.
All my love on Christmas!