Thursday, April 2, 2009

When you need more help than an accountant or coach can provide

I've written once here before about 12 step programs that can help you if you find your problems with procrastination and other work-related problems were more than you could handle on your own. So during this tough financial time, I asked a member of Business Debtors Anonymous to share her struggles with her writing and how DA has helped. Here's what she had to say:

I had been a writer for many years before I came to DA. I had done quite a bit of magazine work. I'd also sold a novel and a screenplay to good companies, but for money that didn’t begin to compensate for the time.

When I came into DA, I was dealing with the aftermath of an investigative story I published. So much magazine work is a labor of love, and that piece had definitely involved more time than I was compensated for. New information led to a followup story, then even more information came my way.

I was so broke. I had a young daughter, a mom with dementia, etc. I spent many hours and several hundred dollars of my own money trying to pass along my research to periodicals that had investigative staffs that could cope with it.

The work kept going. I, on the other hand, was stressed out, stretched thin, and in Deprivation City. I walked into my first meeting and decided to keep coming.

After I’d been in DA a while, three of us formed a step group. We usually met once a week, for about four years. It went deep. My stated focus was "writing and money." I thought I was going to roll up my sleeves and finally make this thing work. I wrote a new screenplay that I was quite invested in. It wasn’t badly received by my agent, but he said there were some problems with pacing... this and that needed work...

I was wiped out. I couldn't imagine working on it anymore.

I’d always loved writing and wanted to "be a writer." Not just be a writer, but make my living as a writer. Real writing. Serious writing, though some of it was via comedy. I had access to publishers before I ever figured out what I wanted to do. I tended to twist myself and my story ideas into the shape of those publications rather than stop to ask myself what I really wanted to write. My self-esteem depended to some extent on what I could say I was working on, on where and what I was publishing.

As we neared the end of the steps in that mighty fine little group, in a very natural way, I decided to give up writing. I felt enormously relieved.

For income, my PRG suggested that I go through my Rolodex and ask people I felt warmly toward if they had any work I could do. One was a book designer, and she kept me busy for the next few years editing and rewriting privately published books, and writing copy for travel brochures. Neither was the kind of thing my self-image would have tolerated earlier but we had a great time working together and I found that writing the travel stuff loosened me up. I got an hour's pay for an hour's work -- amazing! -- so I only had to work about ten days a month, giving me time for other responsibilities.

My home DA meeting for years has had a monthly visions meditation. Over time things came up in those meditations that in a lovely way spoke to or produced images about writing.

As my daughter got older and I found a good situation for my mom, I more or less started over with writing. For the next couple of years, I went to my writing room every morning, sometimes scribbling whatever occurred to me, sometimes using a book that offered lists of open-ended starters. My mantra was, "Am I having fun? Do I like it?" I didn't show anything to anybody.

At the same time, I developed a really firm habit of not just reading positive material every morning, which I'd done for a long time, but also meditating for twenty minutes, which I'd never been able to do consistently.

After I'd filled three books, I reviewed them for bits I liked, and sometimes fleshed those out. The writing felt much more like whatever it was I'd meant to write all along -- the way writing felt in fourth grade or seventh grade. I'd gathered enough material to go for a long time. Some pieces began to roll themselves into balls, to grow.

Gradually I tiptoed back into allowing input from other people. That part is still hard for me, not to get lost in what other people have to say and abandon my own sense of what I want to do. For quite a while I practiced that -- getting input, backing off, noticing how I was sometimes thrown by it, then correcting my course...

Out of that process have come the makings of six books, which I'm working on. I send pieces out occasionally, but for me, it's better to make my living some other way, so I stay true to myself and my writing. Just for today.

1 comment:

Guinevere said...

This post helped me. I just discovered your blog yesterday; I can't remember what I was searching for. I am a recovering prescription-drug addict with two books and lots of writing credits. I have five months without substances, and it was very early into my recovery that I figured out I was using chemicals to numb out my fear of all sorts of problems in my work. Fear of failure, fear of success. Fear of not having money, and fear of having money. Mostly, fear that my ideas for pieces are worthless. There are many resources out here for folks who want to go to any lengths to get over on whatever system and make money at the cost of their own creativity or happiness. These days what matters to me is writing something that lifts someone else up with a tender hand, as we Quakers say... And it has been suggested that I begin a blog, so I'm researching my options about that. It's good to know there are other bloggers seeking serenity. ... cheers then --G