Make a promise

image1Thank you.  I really appreciate the outpouring of support for my “On despair and writing” post last week.  It was both gratifying and comforting to see it connected with so many people.  Thanks again for giving it a read!  I’m glad it helped many of you.

In response to the post, I got messages from people asking me what specific, everyday advice I had with respect to juggling one’s writing and personal lives at the same time.  Here’s my stab at trying to at least begin the conversation.

I hear so many people say they “can’t find time to write.”  Of course, they can’t.  If you’re always “looking” for time to write, something else that seems more urgent is always going to get in the way.  That’s because when you take the attitude that writing is something you need to “find” time for, you’ve already relegated it to a position of low priority in your daily life.  You’ve already decided.  It’s simply not that important to you, and unless you’re pushing against some external deadline, everything is always going to feel more urgent than writing.

But that’s not the way most writing works.  You can’t wait for or rely on external motivators because the vast majority of the time they’re not there.  Writing is most often solitary creation for creation’s sake.  It’s a discipline, which means the importance assigned to it and motivation to accomplish it comes from within.

The key, in my opinion, is a change in terminology, which, in turn, transforms intention.  Tell yourself, “I need to make time for writing.”  Carve it out of your day.  Make writing the most important thing you need to accomplish that day.  I said to an aspiring writer pal of mine on Twitter the other day, “Writers write.”  They do it when it’s inconvenient.  They do it to the detriment of other things on their to do list that day.  They do it as a first priority.  They plan their days around it…not vice versa.

Listen…I get it.  I’m not saying anything new here.  But writers that write say this same thing over and over again because it’s one of the fundamental aspects of the craft.

Does that work for me every day?  No.  Of course not.  Some days the rest of life necessarily takes precedence.  Some days resting my mind and body and soul is the best thing for me and my writing.  Starting each day with the intention that my most important priority is to carve out time to write, however, puts the choice to do the work in pole position in my daily planning.

Take today.  Today is a jam-packed day for me.  After not getting home until midnight last night, I got up this morning to see my wife off at the airport.  I have a meeting with an author in literally an hour to talk about a possible new TV project, and I head off to work on the play I’m directing (that opens Friday…yay!) right after that.  I will be immersed in all that until about 11 pm tonight.

I’m not bragging about my busy day.  What I am saying, though, is my first consideration this morning was carving out time to sit down and write this blog post, which represents the sum total of my writing output today (because what I said above).  I promised myself I’d get at least 500 words out today, and I promised myself I’d get this blog post out before the end of the week.  Well, as of now, I’m at about 600 words, and here’s the post.  I kept my promise.

Because that’s how I’ve come to view my writing work…as a promise kept to myself.  To do the work.  To move my aspirations and career forward.  To put words on the page.  To make my voice heard.  To contribute to the dialogue.

We can talk about what “writing everyday” means and what happens when you’re staring at an empty page and nothing’s coming another time.  For now, just make a promise to yourself.  And keep it.  Each day.

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