A Question of Balance

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Yin and yang. Good and evil. Positive and negative.

The world is made up of opposing forces. Writing is no different.

Writers are constantly torn between very different states: the desire to write the Great American novel and the need to make a buck; the pleasure of writing and the anxiety of submission.

It’s not easy, the writer’s life. And yet, we are compelled to write and endure all that goes along with it. But this does not mean there cannot be some measure of peace in our struggle. Some balance.

Starting out twenty plus years ago, I was all fire and spit. Blood pumping to get on paper the story in my head. Push it out and get it out in front of the wide world. Eager for the accolades and reviews and the knowledge and proof that I am a writer.

I kept this up with the first book, and the second and the third. Kept it up for years as I tried to and then succeeded in landing a rock-star literary agent in New York.

When my agent was unable to find a publisher for my books, things started slowing down. The fire and spit and pumping blood were all used up. I was exhausted, and demoralized; my confidence not shaken, but shattered.

Had I been wrong all these years? It was the unwavering certainty that I was meant to write books that fueled my drive to succeed. The minute I questioned this truth that had burned like kerosene in me, the pilot light went out. In an instant my fire to write was extinguished by a foreign element:


Strange as it may sound, I had no fear of failure when I wrote my books. Never questioned my purpose. It was twenty years into my career that fear grabbed hold, petrifying my mind and heart and soul so that every word I wrote seemed wrong. And that everything I had ever written was useless and ineffective. A waste.

That’s a scary place to be for a writer. Fear cripples creative impulse, strangles every bit of hope. And there I was, drowning in it.

And maybe I would have drowned for good. Except things started happening. I took the reigns into my own hands and decided to bypass agents and traditional publishers. I would do it all myself, and I did.

It is twelve months since I made that decision. During that time, I published one book and will publish the second in February 2018. I have blog and articles published in several magazines and continue to receive requests to contribute. I’ve been interviewed and reviewed by newspapers and journals. Was selected to participate in the Southern Booksellers Alliance Tradeshow and other book events.

But most importantly, the words I write no longer seem wrong. By focusing on my successes, like almost having a book accepted at a press responsible for several Pulitzer and National Book Award nominees and winners – I am able to balance expectations and realities – the yin and yang, of writing life.

If I can do it, so can you. Look at where you are and what you’ve accomplished. Although there may be miles of road ahead, always remember you are the driver.
You are in control.

Just as there is no one way to write, there are a number of paths to writing success. Find your path, chart your course, and work to maintain balance as you move forward.

Do you have a topic you would like us to cover? Let us know about your suggestion. 


About Author

IDABEL ALLEN is the author of Headshots, Cursed! My Devastatingly Brilliant Campaign to Save the Chigg and Rooted: A Washed in the Blood Tale. When not burrowing in the written word, Idabel is generally up to no good with her family, dogs, and herd of antagonistic cows.

1 Comment

  1. This is very true. Every writer’s situation is unique. If you require benefits, you may decide its best not to go the “contractor” route and find a position that meets your personal needs, while still allowing time to write. My own situation has changed over the years. In the past I always had full-time jobs with benefits. Currently, I am able to do contract work as I do not require the benefits.

    Working in a professional job also provides great experience which can be incorporated into your writing. Basically, anything and everything is fair game.

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