Start from where you are instead of where you want to be
At a wedding in October, I chatted with a fellow writer about where we each were in our writing.
"Do you write every day?" he asked.
"Yes," I said, startlingly myself with the realization. "But that's where I am right now. I try to be gentle with myself."
Then we toasted each other, because we're each kicking ass in our own ways.
We talked about how the writing practice is unique to each writer. He has kids, an unrelated full-time job and is also a working musician. I don't have kids and have a related full-time job. He -- like so, so many other writers -- struggles to find the time to write.
We've all been there, right? We want our lives to look a certain way, but it seems impossible to get it to work. Why are we still talking about expecting to have it all, then feeling crummy when we can't force it to work?
Here's a Charles Bukowski quote that really speaks to me about the passion and desire to create:
"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery -- isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is."
For the last six months, I've committed myself to a running practice. I've gone from not being able to run a full minute without gasping for air to comfortably running half a mile at a time. It's an evolution, as is any new practice, and I read today how new runners should start where they are instead of looking at the end goal -- say, running a marathon.
Can you imagine how deterred you'd be if you decided you wanted to run a marathon and couldn't manage the first minute? Creatives are so hard on and expect so much out of themselves, wanting to publish their first novel before they've written a word and be the best at it along the way. What would it feel like if instead, you took only today, and focused on making time for writing instead of finding time?
It's uncomfortable to read that question, and a whole lot of junk (read: excuses) immediately comes up for me. Because, well, first, something has to give. You aren't superhuman, and you have to make a sacrifice somewhere, since all of your time is likely already spoken for.
Could you do one of these to make the time for your writing?:
Ask a friend/neighbor/relative to pick up your child from school and take him/her to his/her extracurricular activity. During that time: Write.
Make a huge salad to work through during the week instead of cooking every night. During that time: Write.
Leave the dirty dishes to take care of in the morning. During that time: Write.
Record The Walking Dead, This is Us, American Horror Story or whatever your favorite TV show is, and ignore the recap blogs until tomorrow. During that time: Write.
Move your gym workout time or take the day off altogether (your sore muscles with thank you). During that time: Write.
RSVP no-can-do to the movie night with your friends. During that time: Write.
Yes, you'll probably feel parental guilt, neglectful about your housekeeping, lazy, like a bad friend -- all those rotten labels we try to talk our own friends out of yet readily apply to ourselves. But know what else you might feel? Really, really proud. Because you did it: You made the time for your writing, starting with only today instead of the finish line. You added three brand-new sentences to your short story. Or you polished the last paragraph of your cover letter. Or you figured out a character's motivation. You took a look at and took control out of your day by delegating your time, forcing writing into your day.
When you keep doing that -- working day to day to day -- it starts to be less and less uncomfortable. More like a routine. More like a practice. I don't know about you, but making this time also helps me feel way more confident when introducing myself as a writer.
Two FREE (holla!) suggestions that might help you jumpstart a more intentional, frequent writing practice are:
I created these solutions for writers not to drum up my business, land referrals or upsell (gross, grosser, grossest). These are projects of passion because I know first-hand how writers -- sensitive folks who give, give, give to everyone else before thinking of themselves -- don't have the Benjamins to invest in their side hustle. I hope these free options help your writing as much as they helped my own.
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