A while back, I detailed my coming-of-age in terms of realizing and owning the fact that I am a writer.
Fitting writing into my life is difficult at best. On days like today, where my synapses are firing solely on caffeine power — and I’m sitting at work wondering how I’m going to accomplish anything useful, because the act of keeping my eyes open is a nearly insurmountable challenge — I wonder just how it happened.
How did I manage to write an entire novel?
Why did I write an entire novel?
Because I AM a writer.
I love those stories you hear about aspiring-writers-turned-famous-novelist because they had long commutes on the train to their shit jobs that they no longer work. They sit behind a panel of interview microphones reminiscing about the hours they spent on uncomfortable plastic bench seats pounding out 700 page tomes on old laptops.
I very nearly took a job downtown just so I could ride the public transportation in an effort to carve out writing time.
Then I remembered:That is so not my life.
I etch out time to write between the kids’ school hours, my work hours, my daughter’s figure-skating lessons and Girl Scout meetings, and my son’s hockey practices and games. Life goes on, regardless of my desire and need to write. And my life is not entirely my own to do with as I please.
People ask me quite often how I manage to pull it off… writing novels in those cracks of life. First off, I have stories swimming in my head that beg for escape. Second, I have an insane amount of family support. I’m sure there’s some other third, fourth and even fifth reason why it works… but in truth, it doesn’t always work out the way I want.
And sometimes, I undermine my own ability to produce. I waste hours online, or gaming. I do anything but honor myself. It’s like I’m terrified of doing something productive, even though I know it will make me happy.
In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice.
– Richard Bach
It comes down to one, simple answer: I write when I make myself write.
I’ve worked through The Artist’s Way a few times in the last 20 years. I don’t require the method (morning pages, artist’s dates, etc.) in order to maintain creativity. In fact, it feels a bit contrived and gimmicky. But each time I work through the book, it reminds me that I need to care for my writer-self. I need to honor that part of me that writes. I can’t ignore that aspect of myself — put it on a shelf, allowing it to grow dusty and moldy — and then take it down and expect it to shine.
I have to respect my inner writer.
While I was working on Rising, writing became a priority, both in terms of time and emotion. I allowed that story to flow, giving energy to my writing. I got up early and used that quiet hour in the house to listen to my characters and recount their words. I edited over my lunch break at work. I told my kids, “For the next hour, I’m writing.” And I’d shut off my Internet connection. I’d remove the distractions. My husband would guard the door to my office, keeping the kids from interrupting. I gave my writing voice its due respect.
To be quite honest, I haven’t given credence to that aspect of myself in about six months. Last night, I didn’t sleep. Mostly, I thought about how little I’ve accomplished in terms of “what matters” in the last few months. I realized my holding pattern, and the fear that drives me to stay up high, circling my goals.
I have a novel to publish. Publishing requires effort, hard decisions and a leap of faith.
I have novels to write. Writing requires time, diligence and persistence.
I have an inner-self to honor. Possibly the most terrifying prospect of all, honoring one’s self requires dedicated self-care and mindful living.
And that’s where it starts. If I’m not caring for and feeding my creative side, I stay in my holding pattern, and I stop producing. When I stop producing, I stop enjoying life. If I’m not enjoying life, I flock to my holding pattern and eye my goals with a mixture of suspicion and longing.
It’s silly. In fact, it’s ridiculous, when I really think about it.
I know what to do to keep writing.
I have to roll up my sleeves, sacrifice boredom, squelch the fear, and just write.
I AM – What I make for myself.
I AM – A product of my choices.
I AM – A writer… but only if I actually write!