Zoo and I get a lot of this from people in reference to our daughter, who’s special needs and the most awesome kid ever: I don’t know how you guys do it / handle it…I could never do what you do – I could never handle it, which is why God gave her to you.

If you’re anything like me, you’re already kind of rolling your eyes and thinking, are you kidding me? First of all, everyone has their own deal, their own obstacles, their own pressures. Second, I don’t think in terms of handling it when it comes to my kid, because she’s my kid. She’s happy. She’s funny. We adore her. We’ll do anything she needs, end of story. Which is the way is should be when it comes to parenting a child.

Is it hard sometimes? Sure. I’m a full writer and I’m home with my daughter full-time – she’s on home therapies, which means upwards of five people in and out of the house all day (which is not, contrary to popular belief, a break for me in any sense of the word, even though her therapists are wonderful) She’s pretty much totally dependant on me (while still managing to get into everything and anything) – she goes for major operations a few times a year, out of state, and Zoo travels quite a bit for his job.

I also have chronic migraine, which means I’m in pain for more or less 15 days out of every month. And still, I write. At this moment in time, I have a million deadlines but I wrote like this before I had a million deadlines. I do it because I can, because I love it, because I can’t stop. I do it because it’s fun and it’s hard and it’s my passion and my escape and my joy. It’s the dream career for me.

And I’ve been asked by a lot of people over the years how I’ve accomplished what I have, writing-wise, with everything else going on in my life. How I have the time.

The answer is really simple – I want it.

For me, it (aka writing as a career) was never an, if I get published. It was a when. It has to be that way if you want it – you have to think as if there’s no other choice, that it’s all just a matter of timing as to when it will happen.

But the simple truth is, I do write every day – I write longhand, on the computer, inside my head while I’m on the treadmill, if I’m at the hospital with my daughter or on the plane and while I’m on vacation – I love it and I can’t not write, and I think if you can’t not write, then you’re going to get yourself published if that’s your goal.

So no, I don’t have the time – I make the time. That’s the key. I made the time for the years that I wasn’t published and I treated the writing as a career because it was. I might not have – and still don’t – write in order or write the same number of pages every day and yeah, some days I write pages and pages of notes or scenes that I don’t end up using by the point is, the pen is moving on the paper. I’m in the mode. I’m moving forward.

Do you want it? Then turn off the TV if it distracts you, get one less hour of sleep, learn to write faster or write smarter. Learn to write anywhere and everywhere, in dead quiet or complete chaos. Learn to write longhand if that’s easier than lugging a computer. Learn to tell people who call or stop by during your writing time that you can’t talk / visit because you’re working.

Stop worrying about if what you’ve got is good enough or in a genre that’s selling and stop – please STOP reading the craft books if you haven’t yet written a complete book yet. I cannot stress this enough – if you’re reading a book on craft and you haven’t yet written a book that you can plug your own experiences into, you’re not going to understand that craft book on the level you need to. Just write the book – the whole book – write it in order, out of order, in any genre or POV you need to but get it down. Don’t get so caught up in the things you think you need to do for pre-writing that you don’t get the actual writing done. Save the energy you expend doing index cards and things of that sort for the writing. Trust me, the craft books will make so much more sense after the writing is accomplished.

Maybe you’re better only giving yourself a couple of hours in a row to crank out the pages or maybe you’re a grazer, like me, who writes bits and pieces all day and pulls it together at some point during the week to see what it’s all worked out to.

Don’t compare your output to anyone else’s – only compete with yourself because that’s what has to happen once you do get published. No one but you should be in your view. You will only slow yourself down if you worry about everyone else. If you want it, once you finally tell yourself, I want it, and nothing’s going to stop me, well, that’s something no one can take away from you.

If you are truly blessed with the writing gift, you should be sharing it with people in the form of your stories. I was lucky enough to have stories by writers like Suzanne Brockmann and Tami Hoag and Cherry Adair, stories I read over and over when I was with my daughter during her earliest days in the hospital. And if you keep writing, one day, you’ll get an email from someone who tells you that your book let them escape from their hectic lives for just a few hours and how much that meant to them – and that’s what it’s all about.

I see so many of the writers I started out with who are now published – I know what they went through to get there, the sacrifices they made. I know it’s not easy – trust me – I KNOW!!! But I also know you can do it if you want it badly enough – so take the small step, sign up for the challenge, start writing and don’t look back.

Steph T.