Writing Demands A Sacrifice

Dr. FaustusI talked about this briefly already, but I’ve been thinking about it more and wanted to expand.

Plain and simple: writing demands a sacrifice of you, the writer. If you’re not willing to pay it, you won’t write.

This was made evident to me during NaNoWriMo; the format of the event forces you to make brutal choices if you want to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And yes, I mean brutal.

This year, my sacrifices were two:

  1. The smaller one: I put aside everything writing related in my life (blog posts, my Play-by-Post RPGs, sometimes even my journal) to save all those words for my novel.
  2. The bigger one, my true pound of flesh: sleep.

A few years back I started getting up at 5 AM to have time to write before the start of the day. That worked for me fairly well, so with the start of NaNoWriMo, I went back to that format, except I would wake up at 4 AM to give myself an hour to do all my waking up prep before being ready to sit down to write. Every day, with few exceptions, this was my routine and I would write my 2000 words for the day between 5-7-ish AM.

It meant that by 10 PM I was beat and ready for bed (though in reality my bedtime is more like 11-12 Midnight), but it was worth it for the burst of fresh creativity I experienced in the mornings.

And you know what? I’m still doing it. And I will continue to do it for the foreseeable future.[ref]We’ll see once I start Nursing school what sacrifice must I make to carve even a couple minutes to write down a few words.[/ref]

So, what about you? What’s your sacrifice? What’s your pound of flesh offered to this cruel mistress, Writing?


  1. Strangely, as a game writer, my sacrifice has been gaming – or at least as copious amounts of gaming as I used to do — along with actively volunteering with gaming organizations.

    I got into this profession, in part, because I was (at the time) either gaming or working on things to support my Live Action Role Play group almost full time. As a stay-at-home-mom, it was my time to get out of the house, slip out of the mom/wife role – it was my “me” focus time.

    Writing has become that. I am lucky to game twice a month (rather than four times a week… or more… that I was doing during the height of my gaming “career”), and my volunteering has become sporadic to the point of near non-existence.

    But I write almost every day, mentor other writers with the time I used to mentor the game group, and I think it’s a good trade off.


  2. Just time management. I don’t feel like I sacrifice anything for my writing, but then again it’s heavily embedded into my life. The only thing I give up is time to do other things I might want to do.


  3. Mostly, I guess it’s my free time and my time spent thinking about other things. Sometimes it’s time spent with my wife or my dogs, or time spent with my friends. I think the key thing here, though, is that most of the time it doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice, and when it does, it’s generally a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I enjoy writing, I enjoy the creative process, and I enjoy the fruits of my labors. So yeah, it’s a sacrifice, but it often doesn’t feel like one.


  4. I really enjoy writing. It is one of the activities I can hyperfocus on. I’ve spent the past few years trying to figure out how I can be a full time writer/editor/wordsmith-at-large, and due to a silver lined cloud, I’m actually doing just that. (I was amicably fired from an entry level “dream job” after three weeks. It was a poor match for everyone involved. No dream job should induce daily anxiety attacks, right?)

    On occasion I hunker down in my bedroom (or now at my desk in a coworking office) and write in order to meet deadlines, but the demands of children and family really don’t allow me to spend endless hours holed up at my desk or in my bedroom.

    Perhaps the one thing I’ve sacrificed is less discipline in my schedule. I’ve learned to make time for things that are important to me, and am learning how to give less time to pseudo-productive or non-productive activities. So I don’t play many online games, I try to limit my social media activity to about 15 minutes a day, etc, I don’t watch much tv unless it’s with family. That leaves family, friends, table top gaming, self care, and “work” (writing and editing!)

    In the long run I can see that I will take on more editing jobs that I don’t find particularly interesting in order to stay a gainfully employed freelancer. On the other hand, editing other people’s work makes me more aware of my own work and ultimately makes me a better writer.


  5. For me it is sleep. I think over the last 24 months I have gotten 6 months worth of sleep. Part of this is due to the fact that my best time to carve out time to write is in the middle of the night. When everyone else is asleep I have the time I need to let the juices flow. The other part of the No Sleep equasion is being awakened in the middle of the night. Sometimes it is a dog that needs to go out, other times it is a child that needs to be soothed, most often it is an idea that needs to be recorded before it will let me have my rest.


  6. I don’t know that I sacrifice anything for writing that I wouldn’t give up for any other job, but I’m unusual in that for me it’s a full-time gig. I don’t sleep much, and I scrape bottom financially sometimes, but I attribute that more to having five young kids (including quadruplets) in the house than to my career choices.


  7. my sacrifice is my sanity.
    sounds like a joke but it’s true.
    i believe the biggest issue for most writers is the time to write. Writing is a time consuming project that is hard to fit in around any job leave alone social life.
    I don’t have a time issue – i have lots of time because I am on disability.
    I have sever Bi-polar disorder (and a few other mental twitches as well) so it is a catch 22 in many ways – i can write because i have the time because i can’t work. I have to write because the stories keep coming and writing helps keep my mind from getting too bad. I feel the stories flow they way they do because of the way my brain works(or doesn’t)
    This all sounds actually really good to those hard core writers out there but then there is the down side… the problems the disability causes the pain, conflict, and strife it causes.
    But I’m not complaining – other have much worse problems without the escape outlet of a rich imagination and an ability with words


  8. I need to revise your thesis: Publishing requires a sacrifice. Writing can, too, but I reframe for purposes of my response.

    My sacrifices:
    * A relationship
    * Health insurance
    * Predictable income
    * Flexible social time
    * Playing only the games I want
    * A peaceful Twitter feed
    * Being able to go to sleep without my mind yelling at me to wake up and work on a new thought
    * Energy level

    That said, still fucking love it and glad I am doing what I am. m/

    – Ryan


  9. @Jess Hartley
    As someone who has benefited from that mentoring in indirect ways, I thank you.

    It’s interesting: when I was doing a lot of game writing, it was also my gaming that suffered the most, which then hurt my game writing. Vicious circle.


  10. @Ryan Macklin
    Yeah, you fall very much into the full-timer gang with all that entails.

    As for publishing. I think that also requires a certain amount of sacrifice, but at the level where you are still learning how to carve the time to put your ass down and words to paper, yeah, I feel it’s the raw act of writing that demands the sacrifice. I know so many people that want to write but aren’t willing to pay the piper what is needed.

    Though I do look forward to when I have to ante up for publishing!

    Also, there is a version of this post that’s called Your Art/Craft Demands A Sacrifice. Writing just happens to be mine.


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