I often tell friends it’s harder and better than people say. I was talking about parenting, but it also applies to writing.
Last night, my two-year old son was up multiple times with a nervously high fever. When your baby’s sick, everything else goes out the window.
But on a day to day basis, there’s teething, tantrums and toddler troublemaking. There’s always reasons to not write especially when you have a child pulling at your pants. And real, understandable, legitimate reasons too. Like sleep.
I caught this post on Writing & Parenting in my Twitter feed today, and it all came tumbling back to me. It justified, validated and explained why writing sometimes feels like an uphill battle these days. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit to moments when I dreamed of life pre-kids when I had hours to idle at coffee shops, not even writing, just gazing out the window, pretending to write. These days, every precious minute is coveted. It’s not that I’m a slave to my writing or my writing clients. It’s cause writing is almost like a third child. It’s surprisingly that important to me.
Meet an angry, irritable soul and you’ll probably have met a creative person who hasn’t expressed himself that day.
Writing when you’ve got kids is nothing to apologize for. Sure, the guilt will get to you on days when you’d rather sit in front of your computer than put together another puzzle. But I think doing the things that fills our creative souls makes us not only better parents, but better people.
So you may have to sacrifice some time, sleep or some other activity you used to savor, but in the end, I think putting energy in what you love (writing and your kids) is all worth it.
One day when we’ve figure out as much of a balance as possible, they’ll thank us. I’m sure.
I hope not because I’d cringe over my early parcels of prose. And whether I consider myself to be a “great” writer on any given day may force me to close up shop.
Yet many people (disgruntled writers, elitist writers, etc.) may persuade you otherwise. In fact, that writer may be you. If you’re waiting for your portfolio to catch up with the title, you’ll be waiting forever. Anyway, the writer you are today is much better than who you were yesterday.
It’s a rare few who enter this world brimming with talent. Most of us have to learn the hard way, with time and lots of work.
In Right to Write, author Julia Cameron argues with one of these elitist writers who believes only real writers should write. In response she beautifully and powerfully says the following:
“I am arguing that the term ‘writer’ should be abolished. I am arguing that everybody should write. That we should have a million amateur writers making novels just for the hell of it. Hell, we all begin as amateurs. Have you forgotten that?”
It’s your right to write no matter what stage you’re at. Writing is not easy and yet everyone can do it. The main determinant is if you have passion for the craft. If you can do it when filled with self-doubt or are uninspired or blocked you are a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The process of writing, the freedom that it engenders, the internal change that occurs when you’re able to put words onto paper, this is your right. Don’t let anyone take that away from you. Whether you’re doing it as a job, a hobby or a way to express your creative self, keep on doing it.
The answer of course is, “No.” Who gets to decide what is “great” anyway? If we were to all write (in a journal, in a blog, etc.), we may be more conscious, reflective people.
It takes courage to write. Be brave fellow writers and continue on the journey. And if you should be filled with advice/suggestions/positive affirmation for other writers reading this, leave your hopeful words for appreciative readers below.
The process of writing can seem nebulous. On a conscious level, you are aware that putting butt to chair and pen to pad creates a flow of ideas. But where it comes from seems a lot less clear.
Does a writer need to be in fits of rage or a constant cynic to engender passionate pieces of prose?
I often wonder if it’s like me and running. It only feels good when it’s bad. In other words, catch me running begrudgingly when all is well in the world, but I’ll pass you if I’m down in the dumps.
But can words dance on the page when things are sunny inside and out?
Can you, for example, be at the height of your career, enjoying the wealth of professional success, physical health and the comforts of loving friends and family and write your heart out about murder, violence, deep discord and text that would make an optimist weep?
I think so.
And so does Julia Cameron. In The Right to Write, she says that writing when happy not only inspires great pieces of work, but inspires joy and happiness itself.
Case in point, guess who’s stuck on the couch in a sweat-inducing room, in a foul mood with a possibly broken, certainly purple toe? Besides feeling the effects of a biking accident (rubber slippers I found are not adequate safety gear while biking), the painters have enclosed us in a claustrophobic bubble of plastic and tape. And have done so for the last few days.
What I enjoy most, being outside, walking/running on the sand, smelling the ocean air is far from likely within the next few days let alone the next several weeks. But I’m smiling ear to ear simply because the act of writing this post to you feels like hope. It is in its own way a little ray of sunshine peeking through that wrinkled plastic drapes preventing me from seeing the clouds.
But what about you?
Are you only able to write when you’re in a good or bad mood? Please chime in. My current audience is my broken toe, my rabbit and my poor husband and at least one of them is getting tired of listening.
What’s one of the hardest battles you’ll fight as a writer?
The battle within yourself.
Working on an article recently, I found myself on the front lines defending my creative prose with an ardent editor. Unforgiving and rigid, she was on task to cut away my unnecessary words and fluffy copy for something more streamlined. It was a hard battle lost my friends. All the more so because that editor was me.
Every writer has two sides of their brain that battles for attention. My right brain is the more feisty one relentlessly slipping in creative allegories for fun. It’s my left brain that has to follow closely behind like a parent of a 2-year-old, afraid of what trouble he or she’s going to get into next.
It’s an exhausting feat. If I don’t give her free reign to self-expression, my work comes back bulky, incomprehensible, and childlike. At the same time, if she’s dormant, my writing can seem dull, forced and tense. It’s an ongoing balance that needs to be met. This is accomplished only if I spend adequate amounts of time free writing, painting or partaking in any unedited artistic expression. It’s the part of me that likes to make up phrases like “crud of the crop,” or paint with wild abandon. These tasks hold just as much value as creating an outline or transcribing a piece. I need to appease both sides in order to write anything worthy of publication.
It’s always an exhausting feat this writing stuff. But I’ve learned a few ways to make it easier. Writing freely in my first draft, for example, helps. My husband calls this my “throwing up” process. It’s an ugly read so he often asks to stay out of it. This is time for my right brain to get it all in, every creative word, phrase and analogy. On another day, my task oriented left brain rolls her eyes and has fun holding down the delete button. There will be many many more edits after that. But if I can soothe my right brain by keeping old prose that doesn’t work “for another time,” then it’s a lot easier to cut.
In the end, it’s a battle won by both. The most successful pieces incorporates creativity and is concise. It’s always a challenge because truthfully I have an affinity for my right side.
I’m wondering how often you have trouble with this too. Is your right or left brain more dominant when you write?
There are a lot of people who want to be writers. Some of them are friends and acquaintances I’ve met along my path. They envy me in a shameless way. My life seems as close to Carrie Bradshaw as possible without the single life and the large shoe closet. Many, I believe, think that I spend all day shopping and galavanting.
Yes it is partially that I suppose.
But the truth is, I spend more days sitting on my butt, pulling out my hair, trying to find the best words to squeeze into my prose. It’s not fun nor glamorous. Yet, it feels to me like freedom-the freedom to express myself and communicate in a way I couldn’t do verbally.
For all of you who want to be a writer, know this truth.
Writing for a living is not easy. It’s not an outpouring of soul divulging like it is in a diary. It is not about seeing your name in print (although it is fun to see it). It is not about being called an author or a writer (that you can get from simply printing out a business card).
The truth about writing is that it is hard work. My brain hurts afterwards. That’s the only excuse I have for emails I send to you with misspellings and grammatical errors or Facebook updates that sort of doesn’t make sense. It’s why I fumble over words when I talk. The process of writing words that seem effortless takes a surprising amount of effort. And that’s just the writing part.
You also have to factor in interviewing skills, transcribing, editing, and of course marketing. It’s a party hat few TV writers show you. Mostly because it’s not all fun or glamorous to do so. It’s simply work.
While the outcome, the finished product could look pretty, to me the process can be ugly and quite messy. I guess it’s like anything worth doing. Please remind me of this the next time I’m in the throes of my work.
Let me count the ways. Your mounting bills, the bad economy, the competition, your lack of time, fear of rejection, there’s already enough books out there, your stuff’s no good, no one will read it, you hate feeling vulnerable, etc.
And it doesn’t get easier. They ebb and flow, rising as your confidence rises. They strengthen as your courage deepens. In fact, the more you grow, the greater the challenges become.
Over time you either grow accustomed to them or you begin to listen. If you choose the latter, you may lose your inner voice. You may think that no one is rooting for you, that you are alone on the journey, that there are people who expect you to fail. This type of thinking not only hurts your chances of writing success, it hurts your spirit.
There have been many times on this path that I’ve doubted my course. And I still do. I know I probably will always feel uncertain about my choices just as I have days where I’m completely sure. But one thing I’ve learned to do is separate myself from the negative voice. I’ve also learned to reach out right when I feel like closing in. I’ve learned that there are people who I have never met who are cheering for me (like these people here.) And I learned that No ONE knows the purpose of my life, only I do.
A lot of people tell me that they want or wish they could be a writer. I understand the longing. It’s been my secret desire since I was a kid. It only took me a few decades to gain the confidence to pursue what I thought I didn’t have the skills to do.
But here’s what I’ve learned.
If you really, really want to be a writer, then do it. Don’t wait until you’ve got enough experience, you have more time, you feel less insecure, the perfect writing job comes along. Do it now!
This lady taught me a few years ago something that I only got now. She told me that if I wanted to be a writer to do it. She said, “I believe you can.” I took her words as generous and kind as gifts from a sweet person. I only realized now that anyone can do it. The key is you’ve got to have the passion and the belief that you can.
It doesn’t matter how much experience you got or how much talent you have. We all need to start somewhere. If you read my writing when I first started, you’d realize how far we all have go to get good at something. It’s the process by which all people rise to the top.
So stop whatever moaning and groaning and procrastinating that you’re doing and do what you say you’ll do. Don’t wait until tomorrow because tomorrow offers another excuse to put it off.
You say you want to be a writer?Well go ahead and write right now!
But I might be alone in my thoughts. I just wrote an article for The Writer magazine with quotes from a handful of writers I admire on why inspiration may not be necessary to get writing. In fact, they list at least three reasons why you may be wasting your time if you’re waiting for inspiration to strike.
What do you think?
Does inspiration help your writing soar or is simply an excuse to procrastinate?
Inspiration doesn’t have to come from tools per se. It can come from waterfalls and mountaintops and from trekking through the forest. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be pretty where you are. I once felt inspired in a bar with my husband watching football.
If you’ve got inspiration covered and are enjoying the free flow of content coming through your fingers, feel free to share your techniques below.
If you’re like me and you occasionally get stuck, you may need additional ideas to keep the ideas coming. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to delve into that unlimited ink pot and recently got a few fresh ideas to do so.
Pinterest. I know. I know. It’s all over the place these days. And for a lot of you Pinterest is just another social media outlet that no one has time for. And I have to say it isn’t for everybody. But for the friends that I know that do use it, it’s been helpful for their business. I’ve been using it to catalog all of my crafts (which would be great for grouping an artist’s portfolio), and recently to create my own make believe community to inspire my latest work-in-progress.
Inspirational instrumental music. Writer Alicia Sparks commented on this post saying that music helps her reconnect when she’s feeling blocked. I’ve always felt the same way, that music lifts the boredom when working on tedious tasks. But it can also spark inspiration. I just discovered Dr. Jeffrey Thompson’s Creative Mind System, two CDs I got from Sounds True that has somehow helps to lift the foggy veil of writer mush and helped me to write even when I don’t feel like it.
That’s just a few key tools for inspiration that’s helped me.
I only discovered it recently. But I’m more apt to write in a crazy fit of inspiration if I’m accompanied by lots of people talking in a crowded room, the smell of coffee wafting in around me and settling on my clothes, and in the rim of a nice, comfy, worn out cheeks indented chair.
That and a working vintage typewriter. I scored one recently at a flea market. I got there late with only 20 minutes to spare and saw it sitting pretty amongst dusty vases, non-affordable credenzas and chotskies I would never buy. I’ve been secretly drooling over antique typewriters for a long time now.
I’ve stalked them in Portland. Like this sweet guy for $45.
And this one with the cool circular letters for $99!
There was a few funky ones that I took with so much excitement that I kind of jiggled the camera, which explains the blur.
But I just never thought I’d own one. So I pinned them instead.
Then, I went to that flea market and saw one I fell in love with. Maybe it was the time pressure or the fact that it was 50% off and that the nice lady gave me additional 10, but this time I gave into my writerly fetish and finally purchased my own vintage typewriter.
Since I’ve gotten it, I’ve been as obsessed as a kid with a new toy. Really. I can’t stop playing with it. Fortunately, it’s also inspired a few scenes in a story I’m working on. Although it’s slower, bulkier and more inconvenient than my efficient laptop, it makes writing so fun. I absolutely love the sound of the keys as I type and the ding that (still works) to let me know I’m almost hitting the end of the page. It’s inspiring me to keep writing. I also recovered the case (which you can kind of see here and which I’m gonna share more about later on my crafty blog The Inspiring Bee).
But what about you guys?
What writing tools are musts for you? What helps you keep writing when you’re feeling writer’s block?