In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.
I’ve known Pete Aldin almost as long as I have been actively writing–I met him at one of the few first few conventions I went to, and ever since he has been a huge supporter of my writing career.. Pete is one of those guys who keeps quietly in the background, but doesn’t miss much. He is first to be there with congratulations, but also with an encouraging word just when people need it. He’s a very talented writer, but you’d never hear that from him–he would rather talk about the work of others than his own. It’s safe to say that the writing world–and the world in general–would be a better place if we had more blokes like Pete, and I am really happy to have him on board today.
Some blokes build a boat in their backyard. Some work on their handicap over 18 holes. Some tinker with cars. This gives them peace, and meaning, and a skillset that affirms them.
Ten years ago (almost to the day), I was turning 40 and I decided it was now or never. I’d had this dream since I was 13 years old to walk into a bookstore, look on a shelf, and see a book there with my name on the spine. And so at 40, I put legs on the dream (and fingers on the keyboard).
I started putting words on pages, meeting other writers, learning to critique and be critiqued, and so on and so on.
A passion was born. An obsession formed. An addiction slid its warm hooks into my soul.
We all pay for our passions, our addictions, our obsessions.
I’ve paid in time lost with friends and family. I’ve paid in the usual author-trope of self-doubt and self-flagellation. I’ve paid in late nights.
I’ve also paid for it financially, hiring a writing coach in the early days, paying for books on writing, seminars on writing. The trickle of money that’s come from selling stories hasn’t reached anywhere close to the costs of writing them.
I am blessed to have a wife and kids who trust me. Who believe in what I do. Who’ve seen that this obsession actually staves off my other mental illnesses. They’ve backed me to work a four-day week for several years so that I can have one day to write.
And here’s the rub. That one day each week is a sacrifice. It’s holy (a word which means devoted, set apart). And I’ve been often irked when people find out I’m not working on that day and assume I’m “free.” (Lee Murray mentioned this in her own recent post on the subject).
“You’re not working this Wednesday, are you? We should catch up,” they say. “Hey Pete, you’re free this Monday; drive over to my work and we’ll have a coffee on my teabreak.” “Hey, Pete, you have Thursdays off. You can drive me to my medical appointment.”
When I try to tell them that I am working on that day, that I’m working on a novel draft, I get that awkward pause that comes when something simply does not compute. Stuttering eyelids. Twitching lips. A fading smile. Then, I suggest Saturday and invariably get the Oh-sorry-but-I-have-something-on responses. And, understanding soul that I am, I think “So it’s fine for me to lose time doing what’s important to me, but it’s not okay for you.”
Oh, sure, I forgive them, for they know not what they do. But I’m bloody well not taking anyone to the airport this coming writing day, lol.
I think this has been the biggest challenge for me: to protect that writing day and use it wisely. As much as I’d like to blame the intrusions of others into it, I am much more to blame for any time-wasting that might have happened. I am the Great Procrastinator, Doom Looper, New-Music-Hunter. It’s all to let my other job’s admin creep into my home office on a non-work day.
But I must protect that time and I must use it wisely.
To use this holy time for anything but writing is disrespectful above all to my wife who has encouraged my writing day and made her own sacrifices; I’d be better to take an extra day’s pay a week, climb the career ladder, save up for that holiday my wife deserves.
A Canadian author once told me that over his first decade, his writing cost him all his friends and at least one girlfriend. But it had been worth it in the end: he’d made new friends, he’d found the right partner, and people were reading his writing.
I’m grateful. That my wife lets me write. That I do have great friends, many of whom I have met through my writing. That people are reading my writing.
Art is important. And important things cost.
Pete Aldin has been writing stories since he was a kid. A few years ago, he finally decided to take himself seriously, and finishing some.
Pete lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife, two sons and their small yappy dog. His addictions include alcoholic ciders, Fallout 4 and the FIFA franchise on Xbox. He doesn’t like pina colada nor taking walks in the rain.
He can be found lurking in the shadows at www.petealdin.com .