New Year, New Class, New Starts

First, the business. New writing workshop starting January 27th, 2015.

Now, the musings. There’s something about the New Year that has everyone ready to put the old behind and make a fresh start. This time last year, I had well and truly overloaded myself with writing-relating activity–MFA playwriting class, a short fiction craft class with Zsuzsi Gartner, a novel mentorship with Gail Anderson-Dargatz. Nothing like working in three genres at once to make the mind melt into warm goo.

And in contrast? I ending the year taking an extended writing break. Once Nanowrimo and the Story Intensive wrapped up, I just stopped everything for a while.  It felt great, until I had to start again. I went from resolving to write more to being determined to write less.

Like many people, I tend to get all-or-nothing about writing. Either I’m trying to take on so much that I cannot possibly do it all, or I am doing so little that starting up again seems impossible.  That even balanced daily dose of creativity seems against my nature.

The thing is, I think we all get a bit all-or-nothing about writing. We think “Oh, I didn’t meet my word count goal. I Facebooked and watched TV instead. I am terrible and will now shame-eat cookies and wine, thus killing several resolutions at once.”

And then… we figure it’s useless and we aren’t real writings and the beating up on ourselves begins because darn it, we tried to do everything perfectly the first time and it didn’t work so why try at all?

You know, writing never works that way. Writing is never everything perfect the first time. (If only!) The process of writing isn’t even perfect all the time. The reality of it is more a lot of doggedly trying again, doing things without knowing if it will work or not, and well, writing a lot of crap. It’s sitting down with time and good intentions and then the cell phone rings and you knock your cup of tea over and the ink on your notes run but you can’t do anything about because it was an emergency call, and by the time that is all over and done with, somehow you lost a month.

You might beat yourself up here and tell yourself that you aren’t really a writer.

But the thing is, you will, eventually, sit down with good intentions again. You’ll make your yearly resolution to write more, because every year, you take stock and remember: This is the thing I want to do!  And you try again.

That is what makes you really a writer.

It’s a new year and a new start. How about this year, along with resolving to write more, to write daily, to complete that novel…. you also resolve to not be so hard on yourself? To let yourself screw up and write more anyway? To call yourself, even if only privately to your mirror, a writer.

Happy new year, Writer.

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That.

The number one issue in my writing life has always been time. Scratch that. The number one issue in my life is time. There’s never time.

I have tried every trick in the book for creating time to write. I have done NaNoWriMo, twice. I have joined writing groups. I have set deadlines with friends. I have taken writing classes. I am most of the way through an MFA in writing. I have taken days off. I have made commitments to write daily. I have set schedules. I have told everyone in my life that there will be times during the day when you cannot disturb me because I will be writing, and then failed to write.

All these tricks fail eventually, at least for me, particularly the ones that require routine. I marvel at writer friends who can just sit at a desk at a time carved out for this purpose and words come out, and then do that every day. How do you find the time every day?

I have despaired at all forms of writing advice for making time.  “Let a few things go around the house,” they say, and I pick a t-shirt out of the laundry pile and give it the sniff test. There’s no more letting go. I silently cursed famous male writers like Nabakov who had a wife that just took care of everything so they could have time to write.

I kicked myself for not being more organized, because surely if I had more discipline I could get everything done and still have time to write. Did I really need to binge-watch Project Runway? Shouldn’t I have been writing?

I would read and hear things like, if this is really important to you, you would make the time. And I would say, but I want to. And then I would feel like a failure before I even began, because I couldn’t reconcile having something so important to me, and still not make time for it. I was a writer even though I showed no outward signs of it, and so I would doubt myself. Writers write; I wasn’t making time to write. Just who did I think I was? How can I even think for one second that this is important to me if I’m not making the time?

I kept at it, in fits and starts, but I also waited for the magical day when the Universe would just grant me more time.  Because as soon as I had time…. man, the things I would write.

Here’s the thing. The Universe is not going to magically grant you more time.

And even if the Universe does grant you more time, that doesn’t necessary mean that you are going to find it magically easy to sit down and write.

The hard truth is, that if you already have a busy life, you can’t do everything exactly the same as you always did and still have time to write. Something’s gotta give. At least a little bit. The reality of the writing life is that you need dedicated time, but you also need to pay your bills and eat and be nice to your friends and family. What that looks like in your life, I don’t know.  Maybe it’s getting up early to write, and so what gives is a little sleep. Maybe it’s taking a long weekend every month to yourself to binge-write. Maybe you pass on the intense career.  Maybe you have to carry on in fits and starts as best you can until you can work this out.

It isn’t easy to know what to do, since we don’t exactly live in a world that supports shirking your responsibilities (a little bit!) so that you can play with words. And realistically, we have to live in the world.

But whatever it is, you need to make peace with it. That moment before you write your first word is scary sometimes.  The Inner Critic reminds you of all of the other things you should be doing. You start thinking that if you don’t write the perfect word, you have sacrificed other things that you should be doing so this word had better be worth it. No pressure, huh?

And don’t start taking this out on yourself. A writer who isn’t writing is simply a writer who is struggling to figure out how to make it all work. You know that’s true. Don’t beat yourself up for struggling with something that isn’t easy. Struggle on.