A few months ago I wrote a series of blog posts about keeping chickens, including what to do if you had to kill one. I read one article about killing chickens in which the author began with, “You must be settled in your mind that you’re going to do this.”
I immediately thought, “Yes! That’s it, that’s the whole thing. You can’t be hesitant. You must be settled to the course of action inside yourself if you’re going to do it well.”
So what has killing chickens got to do with being a writer? Nothing – and everything.
It’s hard to be a warrior without an inner compass that tells you you’re doing the right thing regardless of what others say. That’s being settled in your mind. You can call it focused or grounded or anything you like, but the fact is, there’s a sense of solidity and peace that comes with making up your mind to something before you begin.
This doesn’t mean that you need to disregard others’ opinions. It’s essential, however, that you know what you want, firmly enough that you’ll stick to your guns come hell or high water. Something I say from time to time is, “Do it like you mean it.”
In September I looked at the amount of money my writing was bringing in and knew that I’d need some kind of supplementary income. I decided to get a part-time job, something that would pay some of the bills, let me cover the rest with the business writing and still leave me time for creative work. In October I embarked on training, which was full-time, counting the days until I would have my writing time back. I cut back temporarily on my business commitments.
In November, all hell broke loose. I had some hard choices to make. It didn’t take me very long to make them because I knew exactly what I wanted. Yes, I hesitated – for all of twelve hours or so. Then I made up my mind, sorted out what had to be done and did it for all I was worth. I’ll spare you the gritty details, but the image I kept firmly in my mind was me, armed, armoured and fanged, going into battle, planting my banner and saying, “This is my ground and I’m not moving.”
One decision I made was that even if I had a full-time job, I wasn’t going to quit writing. I could have said to my repeat clients, “Sorry, I’ve had this dreadful setback and I won’t be able to write for you any more.” I could have decided that my fiction would have to wait until I had time for it, or be confined to binges. Okay, I say “could have”, but those options didn’t even occur to me.
That knowledge of what I wanted paid off. I found time and energy to keep my clients, and to work on The Swan Harp, even if my writing time was severely curtailed. The novel is coming along more slowly, but it’s coming. I’ve done final edits on Shepherd in Residence, written articles and poetry and stories and still had time to play with the dog.
Plant your banner. Claim your ground. Do it like you mean it.