The more reading I do about the subject of writing, the more I come across this idea: you must take your writing life seriously. Gabriela Pereira says it in DIY MFA, Carolyn See in Making a Literary Life, and Andi Cumbo-Floyd says it excellently in this recent post on their blog.
There are internal and external factors that lead to our writing lives dwindling. Internally, I struggle with the insecurity that my writing isn’t good enough; I bump up against the frustration that I will need to put in so much time and practice to, maybe, never get anywhere at all. I worry that I will spend years writing something that was ‘wasted’ because I discovered I wanted to write something else (or that what I was writing was the wrong type of thing to begin with). Externally, there’s the laundry. Graduate school assignments and research. Friends and family and the commitments they entail. Grocery shopping, cooking… even exhaustion which zaps my creative spirit.
It’s not that I’m not taking my writing seriously, though. My writing has never been a joke. It’s just that we writers often aren’t willing to get hitched to it. When you marry (I hear, anyway), there are good days and bad days… or weeks, or months, or years. There are internal and external struggles that are informed by your past baggage, present circumstance, and future goals – and you have to commit yourself to taking the time to work on the marriage through all combinations of baggage, circumstance, and goals if it’s going to keep happening.
If your writing is neglected, if you refuse to support it, how can your relationship flourish? How can you grow as a writer if you don’t take the time to understand and communicate with your writing? It’s not about taking the job/task of writing seriously, I think most of us do, but about committing yourself to your writing with the same focus and dedication you would commit yourself to another person. So here are my tips for getting hitched to writing:
- Plan date nights – everyone knows dating shouldn’t end when you put a ring on it. Plan special (and fun!) date nights with your writing where you explore something new together and keep distractions at bay. Let the date reinvigorate your passion for writing and remind you why you started in the first place. Have a guilty pleasure project? Now’s the time!
- Communicate about big goals – both partners in a relationship should always be on the same page when it comes to big picture goals. Every few months, reserve a few hours where you sit down and write out your writing goals, reviewing the progress you’ve made since your last check-in. It’s okay if goals change or if you need to spend time brainstorming how to make a goal happen; this will just help you focus your attentions on where this relationship has been and where you plan for it to go (the plan is seriously key).
- Prioritize – you wouldn’t have a very successful relationship if you didn’t prioritize time with your partner! We do some of this easily by living with the other person but, even so, relationships need more than just ‘co-existence’ time. Similarly, don’t just ‘co-exist’ with the writing inside you. Plan out time for your writing each week (be it lots of time or a little) and then prioritize it – nothing short of a disaster/emergency should cut into the time you’ve scheduled with your love. How would your real-life partner feel if you continuously broke your promises? Yeah, don’t do it to your writing either.
- Give yourself ‘you’ time – I believe you can’t be your best self in a relationship when you don’t focus, sometimes, on pampering you. The amount of ‘you’ time you need will vary based on your life and your writing schedule and can be anything from a bubble bath to rock climbing. Make sure this time makes it onto your schedule so you don’t sacrifice too much to your writing relationship and end up burned out or bitter.
What are your tips for either ‘getting hitched’ to writing (or taking it seriously)? Do you find schedules and planning work for you or do you like to do everything on the fly? Let me know in the comments. 🙂