Monday, January 11, 2010

Is it worth the uphill heartache?

Fifteen years ago I was teaching middle school English. I learned this:

It is not enough to love office supplies - to be intoxicated by the smell of felt tip pens and the feel of a hundred paper clips in your hands. To covet every color of post-it pads and have file drawers filled with neatly marked manilla envelopes.

It is not enough to love books and reading and the way language fits together like the most amazing puzzle ever, and how all of that can change a life.

It is not enough to be thrilled by long linoleum hallways and desks lined like wooden soldiers and the draw of colored chalk across a newly cleaned board.

It is not enough, even, to love the kids.

There is a factor you just can't name that makes a person born to teach.

It's like that with writing books, too.

You can love the click of the keys (Oh how I love that sound!!).

You can love to watch the story form across the screen or bleed out onto a piece of paper.

You can love your characters as though they were closer than family and friends.

You can love plotting and summarizing and outlining and even querying.

You can know the high that is like no other when your full manuscript prints out page after page.

But at the end of the day, writing – like teaching – is something emotional. Something you feel... sometimes too deeply. At the end of the day, there is a weighing of heartache and joy, the future and the past.

It's an investment of your heart as much as your time.

While there might be times you can merely "clock in" and do the work, there is greater time when you invest your entire being into it, mind, heart and body. 

And anytime you put your raw self on the line, there is going to be times when the uphill battle seems like it may not be worth it.

How do you know you are doing what you are meant to do? And how do you keep going when you get slapped down?


  1. I dont feel like Im swimming upstream. and I dont care how long it takes.

  2. Great post, as always! Honestly, I still stumble across, "Am I really supposed to follow this dream?" and all I come up with is that I remember quitting when I was a teenager, a teen that was told to go out and publish but never told how. I gave up that easily. I told myself I knew how to write, but not craft a story. When I told my mom about my quitting work to write and stay home with my newborn son, she said, "It's about time!" which was the most shocking thing I'd ever heard. I also get tons of support from my hubby and kids, that helps a lot.

  3. sorry for the super long comment. :0)

  4. Shelli - there's this sense it's a race, isn't there? But books have been around forever. There is always time.

    Krisi - no such thing as too long. :) And husbands are the best. Mine is getting me through today!

  5. The two things that have always kept me going are that I have something unique to say, and if I keep trying, my writing will improve.

  6. "How do you know you are doing what you are meant to do?"

    I have no idea, but I hope I will someday. In the meantime, I'll continue to bask in the glow of those of you that do.

  7. Faith. That's how I get through feeling like I'm headed in the right direction.

  8. This was very pretty. I love it right now. Sometimes I feel like it's just "work."

  9. Great post, Heidi.

    I think the hardest part for me is that it didn't get easier after the first contract!

  10. "It's an investment of your heart as much as your time."

    That sentiment really hits the nail on the head. When you're investing your heart, even with the set-backs and rejections and hard times, and it's still something you love, then it's the right thing. I can't imagine not writing and though I've been doing it for years with more bad news than good it seems, I still love it too much to stop.

  11. I think of it as a process rather than a struggle. And as much as I appreciate the support from others, the responsibility for sticking with it begins and ends with me.

  12. Great post, Heidi! I'm a former teacher too. It really bothered me when people were there for a paycheck, not for the love of teaching children. I "retired" when I wasn't having fun anymore. I taught for 17 years and loved 16 years of it. I enjoy reading your blog and I enjoy your comments on my blog. I have an award for you over on my blog. I put a link to your blog on mine and mentioned your book. :)

  13. What a great post! I followed the link from Sharon's post. I'm glad I found your blog :)

  14. Just belief, really. I don't know what I'm meant to do but this is the closest I've gotten, I feel.

    ((hug)) everybody has these days, I think.

    Sending you lotsa chocolate.

  15. Beautiful post, Heidi. At times I've questioned my commitment and once I have a chance to breathe, I always go back to it b/c it is my air. I need it.

  16. Excellent post. I like your style of writing--drawn right in.
    It is an uphill battle but those small victories along the way keep me going:)

  17. i identify with every single one of you!! And just because something is hard doesn't mean it's not worth it, right? Maybe it means it's worth it all the more.

    Sharon - thanks for the award! I'm heading right over!

    And all you new people... welcome!!