My favorite author stereotype is the one of the bespectacled novelist sitting at her computer (or typewriter) with a hot beverage nearby, surrounded by cats and piles of books. She works all day and into the night, ignoring the piles of fan mail that accumulate—too devoted to her craft to worry about the mundane things of life, like personal relationships or outdoor adventures. Eventually, she hits a writer’s block so solid, her one friend or family member must intervene and force her on a vacation—usually to the windswept moors of England or vineyards of Italy—where she finally realizes the value of a balanced life, perhaps even falls in love, and truly discovers her muse.
(And of course, she’s independently wealthy, which is probably the most inaccurate stereotype of all.)
There may be authors who live like this, but I’ve yet to meet one. Most of us are juggling our writing pursuits with day jobs, family responsibilities, and various interests and hobbies. We wish we could write full time and make a living off of it—but instead, we find ourselves scrambling to sneak in an hour or even half-hour a day, often with no financial return. It’s a constant struggle. But perhaps these are the very experiences that fuel our tales. We learn about character and conflict from family members, colleagues, and our teenagers’ friends. We dream up plot twists on our lunch break or during soccer practice.
People frequently ask me how I found time to write a book. There’s a long answer to that, but I usually give them the short one: you make time for the things you love. For writers, that means writing, and often at the sacrifice of things like sleep, social media, movies, social gatherings, or other interests. Yes, I’m always lost when my friends discuss the latest HBO series, and no, I’ve never seen the Avengers movies. (Most authors probably don’t give up the Avengers, but there’s usually something placed on the altar.) Yet I never feel like I’m missing out. Stephen Covey once said "sacrifice is giving up something good for something better". And the high that comes from a perfect writing session far surpasses any cheap thrill Hollywood can give me.
But—life tends to ebb and flow, and some seasons are easier to create this balance than others. I’ve had times when finding time to write felt nearly impossible. But I can testify that the old adage “slow and steady wins the race” is true. Writing is work, and often slow work. Goals are not realized quickly and dreams sometimes not at all. But working consistently—even a half-hour squeezed between piano lessons and zoom calls—can eventually produce a masterpiece.
And if not, at least it makes for a satisfying, creative journey.
MELISSA HANSEN is the wife of a hammock guru and the mother of five exceptional kids. When she’s not reading and writing, she enjoys being outdoors, making friends, playing board games with her family, and eating Thai food. Melissa lives with her family in Southern Utah. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, https://melissaohansen.com.
Best Piece of Writing Advice?
My best advice is to write so that it serves you. Write for the creative, therapeutic benefits it brings into your life. Don’t write just to get published. That’s a worthy goal, but there's so much to enjoy along the way. The process of writing is the ultimate satisfaction—not publication. I’m a firm believer of that.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I’m fascinated by the science of the brain. I love to study and learn about activities that get me in a creative frame of mind. Yoga, spiritual meditation, writing in my journal, family history work, and playing the piano are all things I often do before I write. And when I do, I always have a more productive writing session.
What is something odd you researched for your book?
Mind control, brainwashing, and hypnosis, particularly as a means of government or military control. Fascinating, but very chilling! The 1962 classic movie The Manchurian Candidate was a great resource.