• What Do You Sacrifice for Your Writing?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 41 comments

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    Discussion questions: What pursuits and activities do you sacrifice for your writing? Who might you be and what might your life look like if you didn’t write? What pursuits do you follow *in addition* to writing, and how are you able to achieve a satisfying balance? Let me know in the comments.


    Everything we choose to do also involves choosing a nearly infinite number of things not to do. If I go to a 7:00 Yankees/Red Sox game I can’t attend the 7:00 Broadway show. I can’t sweep the floor while taking a bike ride. (Actually, I guess I could… hmmm.) I can’t perform standup comedy at an open mic night while simultaneously asking leading questions at an awkward and inexplicably well-attended seminar about gutter filters.

    And that’s just one-off events. Activities involving a deeper and long-running commitment negate almost every other similar commitment. You can’t become an expert at every musical instrument any more than you can become fluent in every spoken language. It’s hard enough to learn both the piano and how to verbally navigate a piano shop in Paris.

    I don’t care about French but I’d love to learn the piano. And the guitar. And to sing. And to speak and read fluent Spanish. Donate my time to causes and campaigns I care about. Plunge down a history rabbit hole and become an expert in a particular person or era. Take hours’ long daily walks around the city. And, and, and…

    Thing is, I can’t. Because I’m writing a book. Two books, really. And some stories. And a whole bunch of other nonsense.


    The other day a writer friend said to me “I’ve always wanted to get deeply involved in chess, but I don’t have time to do that and finish my book. And the next one.”

    Choosing to write means also choosing to discard other pursuits.

    Not all! I manage to write and to play in summer and fall baseball leagues. But I definitely write more in the offseason. And it took me a long time to find an acceptable balance between writing, baseball, practicing writing, practicing baseball, reading, work, friends and family, exercise, sleep, movies and TV, etc.

    If I tried to throw the piano into that mix, I’d never get anywhere.

    In order to write, we sacrifice other versions of who we could be.

    Totally worth it, though.


    How about you? What pursuits and activities do you sacrifice for your writing? Who might you be and what might your life look like if you didn’t write?

    What pursuits do you follow in addition to writing, and how are you able to achieve a satisfying balance?

    Let’s talk about it in the comments.


    david blogWriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2021 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. If you have a manuscript that’s ready for some editorial care, check out our various critiquing, editorial, and proofing servicesFor your FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer, join our mailing list

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    Barbara Mealer

    For now, I’ve been sacrificing time on my motorcycle for writing. TV/Movie time also went away. Then there is the time I’d normally be spending outside enjoying the scenery and wildlife in my area. (Antelope, jackrabbits, [still haven’t seen that jackalope], roadrunners, coyotes) I’ve been spending all my time writing and editing. Mostly editing over the past year. In short, I have given up most of my ‘free’ time to write. Do I miss it. Of course. But I find that if you have a plan and a longing, yearning need to write, it isn’t really a sacrifice.


    I agree with the last line. Writing is not really a sacrifice. If someone enjoys something…why not just do it? What else are we really sacrifcing if at that moment in time, we are hapy and finding joy.
    Maybe boredom ? Can we sacrifice boredom?? I have no idea.


    Hi David, I appreciate the feedback to begin with. And I guess I do not see writing as something tedious and boring. I used to be very shy and quiet when I was a small child and so it was fun to sit and write and make up stories and to use my imagination. Anything was better than the way I felt I was living. My dad died when I was three years old and left my mom and I alone and very poor. I guess I felt that sadness and loss often and writing gave me a safe place… Read more »


    I spent the last ten years writing a novel AND learning to write a novel. While related, they are separate activities. I can’t say writing has kept me from doing/becoming anything in the past because it tended to take lower priority than working and family-raising. Now, I’m done with the latter two so I currently write and help my wife with home improvements. I guess the question is what would I have done/do if not writing. Well, maybe martial arts, drawing and painting, hiking, camping, riding, traveling. But I think if I did any of those things, I would write… Read more »


    Home improvements always win.


    I’m sure you’re better at analogies than I am at home improvement.

    Cheryl kesterson

    I taught school for 27 years, was a wholesale rep/salesperson for leading fashion industry for 5 years, dabbled in real estate, then retired! I was exhausted by then. But all that time I had this niggling (is that a real word?) need to write a historical fiction book. So after taking a few months off I plunged in only to become a 24/7 caretaker to my husband who developed dementia. It took 10 years of off & on writing and research but I got it done. Now all I want to do is live the easy retired like & have… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    Yes, Cheryl, niggling is a very real word, and relevant to this need to be a writer. Take a look at J. R. R. Tolkien’s faerie-tale “Leaf by Niggle.” Niggle, the protagonist, is a niggling (petty) little man in his world, but he is being niggled (worried) by some deep, vast, wonderful calling

    Cheryl kesterson

    Thanks for clarifying “niggling” for me. Very interesting as well.

    Sid Kemp

    You’re very welcome, Cheryl.


    Hello world, Great question, David. It made me think about who I am. I started to wonder IF I actually sacrifice anything else so I can sit and write and be creative. The truth is…I really do not feel I need to sacrifice anything else. I enjoy writing very much and when I am in a creative mood…it is the greatest feeling. It is as if NOTHING else even matters to me at that moment but getting out the thoughts living inside of me. It also made me wonder what if I did not write?? Then I might be in… Read more »


    Hi David,
    Thanks for the compliment.
    It is sort of reminds me of how my life feels at times.
    Things pile up and then they need to be dumped somewhere. So, why not onto a piece of paper? It is a fine place if you ask me.




    It is also pertinent to turn the question the other way round: what about things that made us sacrifice writing (dull jobs, silly conversations, hours of TV watching, social Medias, fear, Aetc…)


    Interesting. I did not even think about turning the question around. Hmm…that gives me more stuff to write about after I think about the answer to the other question. Great.

    Terri Fisher

    This is a great question for someone who has many interests. Like me. I have recently launched a writing project with a writing partner. It’s a passion project that I’ve been chewing on for almost four years, but could not engage with because of a very heavy work schedule as a teacher. The pandemic hit, our kids encouraged us to retire, and I spent the first nine months of that time adjusting to smaller living quarters with my husband, no ‘safe’ places to get out of our apartment to write, as well as, a sense of loss of regular and… Read more »

    Last edited 3 years ago by Terri Fisher
    Terri Fisher

    I like that strategy. Thanks for sharing, David, I’ll give it a try.

    Elissa Malcohn

    When I was still in grade school, I tried to imagine myself as an adult. All I could picture was a room whose walls were covered in posters, with a typewriter on a table, and me sitting at the typewriter, writing. Whatever job I had didn’t matter except that it supported my writing. My life as it actually turned out hasn’t been all that different, except that it’s been much more adventurous than I could have imagined. The main thing I sacrificed for writing was sleep — big time, when I was writing books. I blogged the following while working on my series,… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    I love that image of your sister typing one of your stories (real or invention notwithstanding). When I was about 12 I taught myself to type on a Smith-Corona manual because I knew I’d submit stories someday and manuscripts had to be typed. That S-C came with us on family trips. I remember one magical stay in New Hampshire, typing my first novel draft at a picnic table after dark. Even from under the outdoor lights, the sky was so thick with stars that even the easiest constellations got lost in them. (I had also brought along a little refractor telescope, my grade school graduation… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    The first thing I want to give up so I can write is illness. Others high on the list are unhealthy eating, time wasting, and habit addictions like watching TV and YouTube. You would think that would be an obvious choice, but it has been 40 years’ work to get to the point where I can begin to do this. Stephen Covey once said, “No one on their deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had watched more TV.'” And when I think about the limited number of years I have left to live, I do get motivated to stop wasting… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    Actually, if I felt my writing was complete, I would probably just let go of life and go for easy sailing in whatever space opens up beyond this world. I really feel I’ve done all I can here. If you want to get a sense of that, read “Leaf by Niggle,” a short Faerie-tale by Tolkien. If shuffling off the mortal coil is not an option, I would dedicate myself deeply to my spiritual practices, which I call Dancing Life. If it turns out there is a way to share them with interested people, I would. But all I’ve seen… Read more »

    Hans De Léo

    An interesting question, and one that I see from a different perspective. You see, I don’t view writing itself as a sacrifice. I write for fun. It’s my escape where I can decompress and on occasion come up with something clever or profound. For me, if it’s important enough to spend the time, energy or money on, then it’s not a sacrifice. If I find I’m spending too much on one thing and not another, then it’s time to make an adjustment. I don’t think much about what I could have been or could be if only things were different.… Read more »

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