Many people have a romantic vision of the writer’s life. They imagine us creating our stories and our art in beautiful writing rooms, or looking out to mesmerizing landscapes, secluded from the realities, and sometimes, the harshness of life.
They don’t consider mundane things like how we cook, clean, run errands—or worse, deal with family crises or dramas.
Some successful authors don’t have children, they don’t have a partner, or husband or a wife. They devote themselves, seemingly, entirely to their craft. This was the case for many male artists, including Leonardo da Vinci. But also women, like Coco Chanel.
Other writers who have happy home lives often have a white knight or significant other who helps them focus on their writing, or artistic pursuits, by taking care of domestic chores or financial concerns, while their ‘writing other ‘ enjoys or earns money from their craft.
For women, in particular, trying to balance motherhood, domestic realities, and perhaps even the breakdown of dissolution of their relationships, it can be difficult to focus on the work at hand or to maintain belief in your dreams. This is especially the case if your white knight does a runner or becomes a warlord.
Whether, you are an artist, photographer, dancer, or work in some other creative career, these less traditional roles don’t always reward you with the steady income you need. For Indie and traditionally published authors in particular—with the advent of Amazon Kindle and other online publishing and other sales platforms—many books have become so cheap.
Some authors offer free books on Amazon, for example, as part of their sales ‘loss-leading’ strategy. Competition has become so fierce. As a result, many authors are working longer and longer hours. Which begs the question—how do we find time for love and life?
As artists, we are driven to express ourselves. We have to. As the psychologist, Dr. Jordan Peterson says, “the artist must create, or she dies.”
A friend of mine told me recently how after many years raising a daughter on her own, and living many more years without a loving relationship, she made the decision to pursue her dream of becoming a writer when her daughter left home. She decided that writing would become her great love.
She began studying the craft but gave up her dream when her fiancé (at the time) ghosted her. That experience had been devastating, but more so, when, some years later, trapped in a series of unfulfilling jobs and struggling to pay her bills, she realized that had she persevered, she could have already published many books and earning a living in a job she loved.
Rather than write through chaos, instead, she had found a job that would enable her to earn an immediate income, but offered no long-term security.
She decided to again pursue her dream and become a writer on the side and work towards making this her primary source of income. She was partway through making this new side-hustle career lucrative when she met another seemingly dashing hero. Everything was beautiful in the first flush of romance when they first started dating.
Last year, to her horror she realized she was about to make the same mistake. Her new partner resented the time she spent working on her writing projects and sulkily said, “you’re not spending enough time with me.” He began to resent the fact that her writing wasn’t earning much money.
“I was faced with a choice. Writing or love,” she told me.
She knew this time she couldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past. She knew this time she had to make a different choice.
“All I need,” she said, quoting much-loved author J.K. Rowling, “Is to be able to sit down in peace.”
She tried to tell her resentful partner that all his ranting and raging and arguing with her was really taking a toll on her writing.
And she wanted her partner to be her white knight and honor the commitment he had made to her that he would support her. “Men want all,” she lamented bitterly when he didn’t follow through on his promise, “they want a whore in the bedroom and a woman who wears the trousers when it comes to finances.”
She envied the women who were financially protected by their men. But then she read stories that showed her that sometimes a man’s shelter was a gilded cage. Recently she read the autobiography of Queen Noor of Jordan. Born in America she had trained to become an architect and had done very well in her career before she met the King of Jordan.
King Hussein made it clear that there was no room for an architect wife in the regal role, and reluctantly she conceded. In her memoir, she recounts how she married for love, not any material or financial advantage. She shares how she struggled to give up her financial independence—but he was insistent.
Queen Noor tried to talk about her Western life and the things she missed, and he replied dismissively, “I really do not want to know.”
Frustrated, Queen Noor turned to other projects that would support her husband’s career. She chose ones that would give her some glimmer of purpose.
In her memoir, she wrote,
“He was so sure about our future life together that his confidence was infectious. His unfailing conviction was beginning to win me once more. I had an incomplete picture of what the future might be, but I knew that no matter what happened, that I would always have my work and the contribution I could make to the country to see me through. The King had let me know in so many words that he was offering me a partnership. That realization too, help me make up my mind. I had a job to do for a country I already loved, and an extraordinary man as a partner together we could make a difference.”
My friend, sighed, “My partner used to jokingly call me his queen. He too offered an incomplete picture about what our life might look like when we co-joined our finances and moved away from my family to the other side of the country. He turned out to be a tyrant,” she said, sadly.
What if, I wondered—it wasn’t peace she needed after all?
As my friend was telling me her story, I began wondering how instead of being distracted by all this emotional drama which was preventing her from writing she could actually use the experience constructively—writing, a story within the story as the drama unfolded.
What if, I wondered—it wasn’t peace she needed after all? What if everything that happened, the environment in which she found herself, was exactly what she needed?
What if a different sort of writing emerged from that? Another genre, perhaps. Something darker with an angry female protagonist. Recently The Guardian ran an article called, Mad women: how angry sisterhood is taking over the small screen.
What if, I wondered, instead of the light, bouncy, ‘everything is beautiful’ love stories she was struggling to write, she worked with what was showing up in her life.
“What if you turned yourself to something deeper with more angst,” I encouraged. “It might just be the career rescue you need, and you’ll heal yourself with writing in the process.”
I told her about something similar I had been through many years ago and a story I had written called The Lighthouse. My male friend at the time (we’re going back quite some years) read it and loved it. Remember he thought he was reading about a lighthouse not him!
Here’s a wee excerpt: I am about to release this as The Lightkeeper’s Lover (Subscribe to this blog and my newsletter if you’d like to know when The Lightkeeper’s Lover is released).
The woman wandering the cliff tops grew weary from her restlessness and sat, weeping, at the base of the lighthouse. She wore the cloak of a betrayed lover, looking lost and forlorn, wondering whether one day love would come to stay. Through teary eyes she looked to the heavens, beseeching: “why hath thou forsaken me?” The lighthouse, unaware of her presence, stood tall and solid, gazing sadly out to sea. Grieving he searched vainly for his lover. Waiting. Waiting for the lover never meant to be.
Two souls lonely in their loss, united by the yearning for love that would stay, remained unaware of each other and saw not that which lay within the distance of touch. The heavens sought to intervene – orchestrating the elements to throw them further together.
Violet-gray clouds swirled angrily – gaining momentum. Faster and faster. The woman stumbled to her feet as the wind rose. Finally noticing the presence of the lighthouse, she ran to its door and tried to open it. The handle, stiff from lack of use, refused to succumb to her touch.
She persisted – pounding on the cold, steel door, determined in her knowledge and belief that, despite the cold exterior, inside it would be warm. The lighthouse stood firm, unyielding. And yet his curiosity was aroused. Secretly he bent to see her, looking with soft, kindly eyes – wanting to let her in, yet fearful of the returning feelings. Fearful of the stirring in his heart. Fearful of her. What if she came in, settled, filled the house with her scent, her song – filling the void which for so long he had denied existed.
“You have a gift, especially when emotion is involved,” my male friend told me.
I wrote his feedback down in the little ‘writing feedback’ journal that I still update to this day. It always encourages me to read the kind things my readers have said about my writing. Especially if I am having a bad day. I still go to this little notebook sometimes when I think I can’t write or I don’t believe that I have any talent, or I feel like an imposter. It’s a great comfort to me.
Mine your emotions
Artists have mined their negative emotions and feelings for years—often to lucrative effect.
“I’ve been feeling this sorrow all my life,” wrote UK rock band Genesis. They shapeshifted through different genres throughout their career. The band moved from folk music to progressive rock in the 1970s, before moving towards pop at the end of the decade.
“In the desert, you can remember your name because there ‘ain’t no one to give you no pain,” wrote America in their song entitled, Horse with No Name.
Many writing experts encourage us to amp up the emotion. In my writing shed, I have a quote written in chalk from one of my favorite romance writers Emma Darcy (actually this is a pen name for a husband and wife couple. She/they wrote ‘a how-to’ guide to writing romance in which they advised, “Put as much emotion onto the page that you think you’ll need– and then double it.”
Recently, the UK songstress, Adele has announced her divorce, and her fans are delighted!? Something feels ghoulish about this to me. I’m sure it is a deeply upsetting time for her and her son.
“Divorce will inspire Adele’s fourth album which producers are keen to see,” news media reports quickly proclaimed. Whether you agree or disagree with the lack of empathy for her plight, there’s no doubt that heartbreak has inspired all her award-winning hits.
Back in 2011, the superstar said of her creative process: “When I’m happy, I ain’t writing songs – I’m out having a laugh.“If I ever get married, it’ll be, ‘Darling, I need a divorce. It’s been three years – I’ve got a record to write’.”
Insiders say Adele is throwing herself back into work to get over the break-up. Work can be a positive addiction that heals. Something touched on in the books, Mind Your Drink, The Joy of Sobriety and also in Control Alcohol, Discover Freedom, Find Happiness and Change Your Life—it’s a poignant reminder of alternative sources of healing for those frustrated creatives or people who may be tempted to hit the bottle.
Because an artist must feel. And a great artist mines those feelings, like a diamond hunter mines mud until they find the alchemy that sparkles.
The choice, dear readers, is to choose love. The love that sustains you. If love between a man and a woman fails you, the love of your metier will always sustain you. Perhaps not financially, perhaps not immediately, but the love of your work will save you. And the right partner for you will know that. They won’t resent your work, they will love that you are inspired and deeply happy.
And if the relationship doesn’t survive—you’ll have plenty of material to write about.
Oh, and do you know my friend that I wrote about, the one with the warlord. Her man transformed into the White Knight. He went from being stressed out and resentful to being totally encouraging.
She started a feedback journal like the one I keep and the first sentences in it were those he had said to her,
“My job is to protect you so you can tell your story like no one else ever will.”
Yay, she got her happy ending after all.
Live an exciting passionate life, dear friends. Remember that we are surrounded by an invisible world—one that is sometimes polluted, toxic and harmful (with suspended particles, light gases, heavy metals, sun radiation, and peoples moods)….and one that is beautiful, healing, and healthy (infused with magic, alchemy, and spiritual guides).
Fight for your dreams! Give in to your passions regularly—giving yourself permission is the biggest gift.
As my masseuse reminded me recently, “Don’t let life get in the way.”
Perhaps this inspirational quote I have on the wall of my writing shed will speak to you as much as it does me,
“Always picture succeeding. Never let it fade. Always picture success, no matter how badly things are going in the moment.” ~ Jessie Burton, author of The Muse
Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and newsletter to receive notifications about more inspiring love-filled content and to learn when The Lighthouse and other stories are being released.
If you’re going through a tough time, you may enjoy my wee poem. It’s inspired by an old oak tree in my garden. I also wrote about an inspirational magical tree in my love story called Love Me Forever—download a free sample or purchase here
The Oak Tree
The oak tree grows toward the light
the gnarly cypress towers above
pushing against the oak, stunting its might
the oak stands its ground and grows proudly,
its roots arch and spread and burrow
down, down, down it grows
down, down, it goes
down, down, down it reaches
seeking Mother Earth
up, up, up it reaches
up, up, up it goes
up, up, up it grows
its branches arch and spread and borrows
borrows from the energy of the earth and sky
borrows from the whispers of the wind
the song of the birds
the comforting touch of those just like her
and she grows where she can
and she stands her ground
and she flourishes and thrives
and lets go of the parts of her that die
And she knows
yes she knows
she really knows
that what she releases is past
and there will be a time to weep
a time to cry
a time to say goodbye
and she will rest
she will sleep
and then one day,
again, she shall meet
the little seeds of hope so sweet
and the tiny buds of dormant growth
which, in a whisper unfurl
and the growth will be new
and the growth will be vital
and the growth will delight
This is nature
This is natural
This is how magic happens
And who knows what tomorrow will bring
Every day is another opportunity
To start again
And to be better.
P.S. Subscribe to this blog and my newsletter if you’d like to know when The Lightkeeper’s Lover or any of my other books are released.
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