Lately I have been thinking about how much I write and how it fits into my schedule. For those of us who cannot survive on the proceeds of our writing alone—I’m particularly talking about the creative and not business-oriented material—it’s just plain hard to keep up the daily habit of sitting down (ass in the chair), and writing. When can we squeeze in a page or two? When can we manage to complete a rough draft? What about revisions, edits?
I recently spoke with a friend from graduate school who regularly submits stories and articles to journals and magazines for publication. He texted last month to tell me that “River Teeth” had finally published his story. (Check out his Insta page, https://www.instagram.com/rybrod/, @rybrod).
“Is this the one you mentioned a few months ago, the one you were waiting to get paid for?”
He replied that it wasn’t. No, this was a story that had taken three years to finally get out into the world.
THREE YEARS. I balked. When had I given a story that much of a chance, believed in its importance that much? Three whole years he stuck with it! That, that is dedication.
Unfortunately, I had to admit to myself that I can pretty quickly lose interest (and hope) in my work. An idea strikes me, stays with me a while, and then I allow the pages to get lost in the annals and halls of my Macbook. Poor “Finder.” It’s overwhelmed by my masses of abandoned creative thoughts. I really should put more time into all those sparks of creativity.
What I mean is: I shouldn't give up on myself. Any story that took a month or more to write is probably something worth publishing—or at least worth working to a finish.
But then the question returns. “When will I find the time to . . . finish?!” When will come the day when I sit at my computer and my perfectionistic self is satisfied enough to hit SEND on my submission to one journal, two, or even three journals? There must be time. When can I squeeze the writing in? When can I find the energy? (I’m not even a mother! I don't have kids, only a dog who is content to look at my face and lick it, then curl back asleep!)
The answer is complicated, and also simple. It is this:
MAKE TIME. TEN MINUTES. IN THE BATHROOM, IN THE CAR, WHEREVER. Just don’t forget it. Make it a habit, keep all that writing in one single place to make it less complicated. And pull it out at least once a week and put all those words into a processor. I think, fellow writers, that the handwriting-first element is key. We learn habits better when they’re bodily. Compare it to what you want, but name off three things that you’ve learned by heart, things you even crave doing. Got em? Right. Do they involve more than just your fingertips? Probably. We crave things through our bodies. So make writing something you do with your body. With your hands. HANDWRITE THAT SHIT. JUST DO IT.
That’s the simple part. Just do it. Do it by hand. The complicated answer has to do with that voice in your head that reminds you that you aren’t perfect. (Which you aren’t. You’re not perfect. You’re not Jesus nor the Buddha nor Marie Kondo.) So just accept that your writing will feel like a-shambles, but to everyone else it’ll probably read as something beautiful.
These are things I am writing to myself. You hear? I’m writing this blog post for myself. Because I am a perfectionist and I do not always make the time to write. But I crave it. I know the feeling of handwriting a horrible poem that is full of heart and full of longing, because it’s real.
Make the time in your schedule. You won’t regret it. Once you know you’re really starting to crave it? Reach out. I’m here, yes, I’d love to help! But find someone. Anyone. Share yourself.
Stay tuned for next week’s post about revision, editing, and the difference between them!