Thursday, February 18, 2016

Advice From A Novelist

Yesterday's post featured the distractions writers who work at home deal with on a daily basis. The quote above by Edna Ferber, renowned American author, brings up yet another problem for the at-home writer.

If you have a job in an office, you spend X hours there every day and, while there are some distractions, you basically are free of the many interruptions an at-home writer must deal with.

What about those invitations you receive from friends and family? Someone calls and suggests lunch and a trip to the art museum. Or a shopping excursion. Maybe a performance of some kind. You want to go but you know that you also need to write a certain number of words per day to finish a novel.

If you accept the invitation, you know you'll have a wonderful time with someone whose company you enjoy. But the computer keyboard sits untouched. If you politely decline, you risk offending another person but your work gets done. Either way, you're going to feel some guilt.

Someone once said to me, "I don't know how you can be a writer, Nancy. You're such a social person and writers need to be alone most of the time." She was right. I love being around people but I also revel in being alone and writing. I try to balance the two but the scale weighs heavier on one side or the other many times.

What I don't do is allow myself to feel guilty for saying no to an invitation or for not getting a certain prescribed number of words written. I think we need to follow our gut instinct. There are times when that social event is important to our emotional well-being. There are moments when staying home and writing for hours at a time do the most for our mental health as well as other parts of our lives.

The point here is to do whatever feels best to you without letting guilt worm its way into your innards. Make a decision and stick with it. For the introverts, saying no to a social event is not so hard. They most likely prefer being alone and writing anyway. For the complete extrovert, the decision is a little more difficult. For those who, like me, are in the middle, you can waver too often. Try to choose what is best for you at the time.

Meanwhile, if you've never read anything Edna Ferber has written, hie thee quickly to your local library and check out one or two of her novels. Read them and ask yourself why they were so popular. What key did she have to success? Many of her books were made into movies--Giant, Cimarron, and Show Boat are a few. Here is a list of her novels.

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