I am a full-time at-home writer. That’s my job, and I work at it. Not everybody gets that luxury. Not everybody is as single-minded about art as I am myself. (My unofficial motto is “I art, therefore I am.”) I don’t have children. I don’t have family nearby, and I live out in the country, where dropping in is inconvenient. This means that I am free to indulge myself in writing and associated activities, like research for writing, with very little interruption for most of my week.
At writers’ group I hear over and over, “Oh, I wanted to write this month but my daughter was visiting…” or “We went to Toronto for the week…” or, or, or – a litany of things that people did instead of writing. And they are so apologetic, as though they should have been writing instead.
Am I going to guilt these people for choosing time with family or whatever else had their attention and energy? Not at all. But what bugs me is “I wanted to write, but…”
So here it is. If you want to write, write. If there’s something else you’d rather be doing, then do it, and enjoy it. It’s clearly got your attention and your commitment, and it’s a total waste to do it and feel guilty because you didn’t do something else.
Don’t apologise because you’d rather have tea and talk with your daughter, or practice the piano, or make a trip to Toronto for live theatre, than sit alone at a table somewhere and write.
Don’t say “I should have written, but….”, “I wanted to write, but….” unless you follow it up with “our house was flattened by a hurricane and I spent the month trying to salvage what I could of our belongings.” or “Three people quit at work and we all did double overtime all month.” In other words, if you’re going to say “I wanted to write but I didn’t because…”, it better be because you were forcibly prevented from writing, not because you chose some other activity you wanted to do.
Writing is something you do because you have to – in which case you will be scribbling on a borrowed notepad before you go to sleep in the school gym – or because you want to, in which case you will do it when it comes to the top of your list of “I want to do this”. Either way is fine.
Me, I’m a tad obsessive. I’m just a teeny bit driven. I’ve been known to take half an hour or so away from a family get-together to write. I write nearly every day, mostly because I want to, but partly because it is my yoga, my discipline, and I need to keep myself up to the mark.
The days I don’t write, I don’t stress out about it. Maybe I’m having a paper day, or a clay day. Maybe I’m thinking about a story. I work a lot of things out in my head before they get to paper, so by the time I write a story down, I may have it almost word-perfect. Maybe I’m having a day with my husband. I might go swimming, or sit out by the fish pond and read.
But I never apologise for it.
Write, or don’t write. It’s okay. If you’d rather be doing something else, go do that if you can. Just whatever you do, do it like you mean it.