What Are You Willing to Sacrifice to Write?


I first met Lynette Benton on Twitter, and soon discovered what a great writing instructor she makes! That’s why I invited Lynette to write a guest post for Rogue Writer. Today she asks, what would YOU be willing to sacrifice to write? Read (and see) Lynette’s hilarious answer below …

What Are You Willing to Sacrifice to Write?

BY: LYNETTE BENTON

I left my full time job, partly so I’d have time to write.

I only attend every third or fourth birthday, graduation, baby shower, wedding, anniversary, and random celebration hosted by my husband’s huge family. (They’re very forgiving; or they just want me to finish this darn memoir they keep hearing about.)

I descended from my husband’s and my lofty culinary standards by occasionally substituting garlic powder for the freshly peeled deal.

I arranged to teach all my writing classes on only two days a week.

For the 25 years I’ve been with my husband, I’ve let him indulge his passions for vacuuming, doing laundry, and grocery shopping.

But, still, I felt too busy to make as much progress on my memoir rewrites as I wanted to. I had to get drastic.

Years ago …

… a friend with the kind of hair women swoon over, became a White House fellow. He told me that to succeed in this enviable new position, he was making some major changes. Then he waltzed into my apartment with his big, shiny curls cut short and slicked down.

“I’m wearing it like this for the duration,” he said.

Lynette before cutting her hair
Lynette before cutting her hair

Well, my hair is nice, but quite difficult to manage. So one day last spring, I had four inches trimmed from my footlong mane. Nice. But it still took a ton of time to wash, comb, and arrange.

At my wits’ end, I announced to my husband, “It’s either the memoir or the hair. One’s got to go.”

I crept into a hair salon where no one knew me, so they wouldn’t tell me my hair was too pretty to chop off. “Cut it down to an inch all over,” I ordered.

Even after three months of short, short hair, I still don’t look like myself to myself. But my memoir rewrite is moving along at a steady clip now.

 

You don’t need to be as drastic … 

Lynette after cutting her hair
Lynette after cutting her hair

… as I was to free up time and energy to write. Because that’s what we’re talking about here, isn’t it? It’s not just time that we writers need; we need energy—creative energy, physical energy. (Only non-writers think it doesn’t require a lot of energy to write for four or six hours a day.) So here are some actions you can take to give yourself more time (and energy) to write:

  • Marry someone with a small, unsocial family.
  • Slash your online memberships in half. Social media is great for writers. It’s critical for platform building, and it’s nice to connect with other writers and the rest of humanity after a day of writing in solitude. But, if you belong to 50 LinkedIn groups, as I did, you know it’s impossible to keep up with all of them. Cut your list to 25—as I did. Then see what other online communities you just don’t need to receive any more emails from.
  • One day a week, don’t venture farther than your porch, or if you don’t have one, your windows. Getting dressed and commuting anywhere use up time and energy.
  • Forget about nail polish, unless you’ve been invited to the White House or Buckingham Palace. (This one was really hard for me!)
  • Don’t iron anything. In fact, wear a uniform. I’m sure Steve Jobs’ success can be attributed partly to the fact that he never had to worry about what to wear.
  • My friend Lesley says to wear paper cuffs you can write on while waiting in the grocery store checkout line, if you’re not concerned about looking a little insane.
  • My husband wants me to add that it’s not necessary to change your clothes every day. But you might not want to try that at home.

**********************************

Lynette Benton’s articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, Skirt, More Magazine online, and numerous other publications. She teaches and edits creative and business writing in the Greater Boston Area. Her memoir, My Mother’s Money, is in the revision stages. Visit Lynette’s blog, Tools & Tactics for Creative Writers. Contact her at relief11@comcast.net, or on Twitter at @LynetteBenton.

26 thoughts on “What Are You Willing to Sacrifice to Write?

  1. I love this post and I love your (short) hair. Perhaps when I’m ready to start the rewrites on my memoir, I’ll chop mine off to just an inch long, too. Right now, it’s way below my shoulders, so that will be quite a shock for everyone. I hope your revisions continue to go well. Thanks for the thoughts and the smile.

  2. It’s much better to make the choices of what to cut. When I received the call to write I ignored it for a long time, but God “arranged” my life so that I had plenty of time to write. And I’m all the better for it.

  3. Hello Shari
    I live in the UK and the day job – I am an air hostess, the one and only job next on my list is that of writing full-time. I have been lucky enough to have met Lynette in Boston (my day job having taken me there). She is an amazing women and very inspirational, such a kind woman who has time for you. Small changes can make all the difference – although to some people my change is huge and a sacrifice (not willing to say what I have done just now – but it’s not illegal lol), but it’s a matter of prioritising. That was a great article – thank you. Wishing you well.

    1. Hi Aandi,

      Pleasure to meet you! And to hear of Lynette from someone who has met her in person. I’ve only gotten to know her through WordPress and the Twitterville. I completely agree with you: small changes are the keys to making the large differences.

      1. Hi Aandi. The fact is, even though you’re not ready to share your secret about what you sacrificed, you inspired me. Remember all the questions I asked when we met about how on earth you managed to write your first book while raising children? Now, you’ve published your second book, all the while flying the friendly skies!

  4. I may be coming from the opposite angle here. I’ve been pared down to the essentials by the loss of a (writing and editing) day/grunt job. It was then I realized how much I had been giving up! Now I have all the time to nurture my other creative skills that I didn’t even suspect I have—macro photography, choreography, costume and clothing design. And they all feed my soul, fire up my energy, inspire my blogging. Heck, even getting my appendix yanked out yielded a humorous post. I guess you could say I sacrificed a non-essential body part for writing ; )

    1. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your job! But then again, not completely, because of the newfound creativity it sparked. Amazing how certain “curses” can turn out to be blessings in disguise, huh?

  5. Lynette offers some great advice here. Sometimes little changes can make big differences, and as the saying goes we can’t change anyone but ourselves. When I started my memoir I thought it was just a matter of writing down words in sequence and, eventually when I had enough words, selling them to a publisher. I went through the oh yeah I get it now phase, full of excitement thinking I’d changed my attitude and was now a “real” writer. I stayed focused, worked to a plan, set goals, checked off accomplishments, reached out and became part of the writing crowd. I sacrificed time with the kids and family for The Book because that is what I thought I was supposed to do – that is what the experts said I should be doing – don’t slow down, keep the momentum going, etc. etc.

    Eventually I realized every moment I missed with the kids and family were moments I’d never get back, and when I looked at the big picture – what will what I want most actually give me – I just couldn’t imagine the reward making up for that. As Dirty Harry famously said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I know mine. Of course one must sometimes step beyond those limitations, take a chance and not be afraid of failing, for only then can one truly expand boundaries, but there’s a difference between pushing one’s limits and being caught beyond them.

    1. Richard, I think you bring up a very profound point. I love Lynette’s post, and like you, I agree she raises a great point. However, like all things in life, IN MODERATION. What fun is finally reaching bestselling success, if your loved ones are no longer there to enjoy it with you?

    2. I’m so glad you revealed your methods and your learning curve in your comment, Richard. I like your insight about sacrificing time with your family because it’s what the “experts” advised. We have to weigh our priorities with care, because those “experts” aren’t going to suffer because *we* neglect the important people in our lives.

      P.S. I may not get together with my husband’s family at every single party, but I sure make one-on-one time for him!

  6. NIce post. I can totally relate. And would add: I always wear the same clothes twice! Three times, even! As long as I like what I’m wearing, that’s fine. And with a husband from Europe, where main outfits get worn for weeks on end, it goes over nice and easy.

  7. Thanks for inviting Lynette over, Shari, I know i’d be a happy writing student with her as teacher, too. Lynette, I’m considering cutting my LinkedIn descriptions down, too. Already, whatever discussion digests I don’t read that day get deleted from my inbox without regret.

C'mon, you MUST be thinking something.

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