A few days ago I was interviewed by readers on a blog and one of them asked how I was able to write, publish, blog, read, etc. as a mom of young children. I, of course, said that I stay up way too late to write, use my husband’s days off and if I have a spare moment during the day I’m writing or thinking about writing—not cleaning. Even now, I’m typing this on my iPad mini while my kids eat second breakfast. They apparently have the appetites of hobbits and will eat all.day.long.
And my husband doesn’t get praise enough. I have tried writing since childhood. I always did well in school with creative writing but I never quite finished anything—at least not to the point where I was satisfied enough to share it with others. Perhaps the problem was it was all scientific. Sit down and work out a plot, outline everything, do character development exercises, over-think every little nuance of the story and of the characters, etc. At any rate, I never really finished anything and I believed my dream of becoming a writer would never be realized.
After ten years of being an Austen fan I discovered Jane Austen Fan Fiction during a rough pregnancy. After a month or two of constant reading, my creative mind was bursting with my own ideas, but again, the stories never developed. My husband encouraged me, though. “You can write your own,” he’d say. Now, I’m not so sure it was because he had that much faith in me. I had never allowed him to read my stuff and he certainly didn’t read JAFF. It was likely in an effort to make me stop buying books—because in his mind if I wrote I wouldn’t need to buy.
So, I tried again and again. I gained further encouragement from online communities and eventually tried my hand. I even allowed my writing to be critiqued. It’s a humbling experience to ask for help from strangers.
I read an article recently that suggested authors talk more about the reality of how they can afford to become writers before they actually publish and presumably become successful. In my situation the author of said article would argue that I succeeded at writing at this point in life and not earlier because I was no longer a struggling college student working two to three part time jobs. I stayed home with children and my husband paid the bills and was supportive enough to allow me a few hours to write on his days off while he (gasp!) took care of the kids he barely saw all week.
I disagree. Certainly it’s easier to write this out now that I’m not answering telephones and scheduling patients, mixing paint, announcing the name of a radio program, cleaning a house or making grilled cheese for hungry college students (I’ve had a lot of jobs!). Certainly knowing my husband supports me, as he does now read my stories since I’m brave enough to share and ask his opinion, and knowing that he will bring me flowers when I finish a draft helps. Yes, having a community of friends writing the same genre and with similar opinions is invaluable. But really what gets me to finish, what keeps me awake at night with ideas, what makes me move on after a bad review is simply my obsession.
As my dear book-boyfriend Henry Tilney (Darcy is my book-husband) would wish to ensure I applied the proper usage for my desired meaning, I will take the minute to disclose the definition of obsession:
- a state in which someone thinks about someone or something constantly or frequently especially in a way that is not normal
- someone or something that a person thinks about constantly or frequently
- an activity that someone is very interested in or spends a lot of time doing; a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly : compelling motivation
I’m good with obsessions. Ask the boy I basically stalked when I was thirteen–with complete encouragement of my mother. Fortunately, I did mature and grow up. Ask my husband about my obsession with evaluating what to name our children. Before kids I used to be the biggest neat freak.
And so JAFF is another obsession. I am far more obsessed with it than I was with any of my previous plots. My husband says it looks like my brain is going to explode if I’m in the mood to write but can’t. Thanks to this obsession I’ve been able to learn more about my writing strengths and weaknesses and I think maybe I can even finish some original historical fiction works. But I know in my heart of hearts none of the worlds and characters I can create will compare to my obsession with Jane Austen’s brilliant works.
We come from so many different backgrounds and have had different experiences. Perhaps we even interpret various works in different ways. Perhaps we may argue over the merits of Austen’s best hero or heroine. Yet, as Janeites, we share this obsession. We are not the ones that merely read the book once or twice and then moved on. No, our minds turned again and again to Austen’s characters. We wondered what happened next or what would happen if…
So, from one obsessed writer to all our lovely obsessed readers I give you a “we can be misunderstood misfits together” hug. Welcome! You can fit in here!
A picture which captures nearly all the reasons I can write: Coffee!! Flowers from my husband! Crockpot meals! And neglecting the housework. The only thing you can’t photograph is that inner drive, my obsession.
What are some of your embarrassing obsessions (besides JAFF)? What’s your motivation behind your passion in life? And now I must go because I’ve had to break up several fights, give hugs, kisses, assess boo-boos, and now apparently it’s time for elevensies