Advice for Writers: Abandon All Hope of ‘Doing It All’

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Editor's Note:

Kimmery Martin is an emergency medicine doctor, born and raised in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. A lifelong literary nerd, she reviews books, interviews authors, and works extensively with the library foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she resides with her husband and three young children. The Queen of Hearts is her first novel.

People often ask me about the logistics of “doing it all,” evidently laboring under the impression that I am, in fact, successfully doing more than one thing at a time.

On paper, I might sound impressive: I’m a doctor, I run my own book review/author interview website, I write articles for various online outlets, my debut novel is being published this February 13th – hooray! – and last but certainly not least, I’m a wife and the mother of three young children.

Here’s the thing: I have the organizational ability of a toddler. I am not one of those people whose desk looks like it just drifted out of the pages of a California Closet ad; mine looks more like an applicant for a reality TV show about hoarding. Even my computer is a hot mess, its monitor littered with dozens of unidentifiable screenshots I’m afraid to drag to the trash in case an emergent need for one of them should crop up. I’m constantly yelping in dismay as I rush out the door with my clothes on inside out, late yet again for a board meeting or a parent-teacher conference. Even my hygiene is suspect: I don’t shave my legs in the winter, and I’ve been known to harbor an over-reliance on dry shampoo.

All this to say: something’s gotta give.

When I first started writing, I had no idea the degree to which it would take over my life. In my innocence, I thought writing would be a side outlet for me, something I could sandwich in between ER shifts and afternoon carpools. Instead, I wound up restructuring my entire life to feed the habit. I’m trained in emergency medicine, but I accepted a job at an allergy clinic, which needed an ER doctor on site in case anyone anaphylaxed after an injection. (That rarely happened, so I mostly was paid for sitting alone in a room with my computer. Please don’t hate.)

I recruited help to shuttle my kids around to all the soccer and gymnastics and field hockey practices. I cut back on volunteering for the causes I love. And even with all that, I find myself suffering an acute case of time famine. I’m not an anxious person by nature, but as the publication date of my novel looms larger, I’ve been waking up in a state of agitation, wondering how I’ll manage to get all the stuff done.

You could argue, of course, that the writing angst is self-inflicted. The world was not clamoring for me to become a novelist. I could have stuck with my already-fulfilling life, thus sparing myself the drama of trying to write and sell and market the figments of my overactive imagination. But, like many highly driven people, I fear boredom and stagnation more than I fear … fear. I love the limitless challenges inherent in writing. I love the siren call of infinity offered by a blank page. I love having a voice.

In order to write, I’m willing to tank from time to time when it comes to life’s more expendable responsibilities. And as long as my parenting and my marriage are getting the attention they need to thrive, I will keep writing … even if it means not exactly doing it all.