Write On, Sister

Last December, my primary New Year’s Resolution was to spend more time writing. The baby was nine months old, and sometimes I’d go days without getting to the keyboard. But I wanted to write more.

And if by “more” one means “greater than zero” — well, I certainly succeeded.

I wrote a few decent essays, a picture book, and I started blogging at skirt!. One essay I wrote was supposed to be published in a literary magazine, but the magazine folded a few weeks before it was to be printed. I could never find an agent for the picture book, but I’m going to try to look for a publisher on my own. I haven’t been consistent at blogging for skirt!, but I am still writing for them and hope to for a long time. I tried and failed to finish NaNoWriMo.

I also took some practical steps. I participated in a critique of my work, attended several writers club meetings, workshops, and my first writer’s conference. I probably didn’t go to half the stuff I wanted to go to, but since I was still so sleep deprived for most of this year, I think I did fairly well.

I wanted to write more in 2009, and I definitely did.

Melissa at Making Things Up has linked to a really great essay, particularly for writers, from The Washington Post. Author Ann Patchett talks about the importance of treating writing as a job. She proposes taking the first 32 days of the year, and creating a real work day from which to write. And her advice makes plenty of sense. In fact, while I can’t spend a whole “work day” writing, I did take steps back in January to make it (though a much shorter time span) happen: When the baby was ten months old, I hired a baby-sitter for 4 hours a week. When the baby got older, I made it 6-hours a week. On the occasional weekend day, I’d take my laptop on a date to a place with free wireless internet.

But Patchett has two things that I lack: success and legitimacy. She is an accomplished writer, with five novels under her belt. Writing a novel, I’m sure, is incredibly difficult for anyone. But if you’ve had five published in the past, I’m sure sitting down to carve out time to write the next one is not nearly as daunting as for a person who can’t get even get an agent. Or who can’t even get a short-story published in a magazine with a tiny circulation. The hardest thing for me about writing, is often not the actual task of writing. It is the knowledge that what I write might not ever see the light of day. The hardest part, is legitimizing the time that writing takes away from my family or household chores, when the time I spend writing often swiftly ends in rejection.

So, here’s my variation on Patchett’s New Year’s Resolution.

Make Your Dream, Your Job.

Do what you need to do to raise your children, earn money to support yourself, and take care of the house. But then do what you need to do to make your dream happen. Carve whatever time you have or don’t have, out of your day. Stay up too late. Get up too early. Do what you love, whether or not your dream will ever lead to success or recognition or legitimacy. Make your dream a part of your daily work day, whatever that entails. Don’t think of your day as complete until you’ve spent at least a few minutes cultivating and nourishing that dream every single day.

Spend 2010 being that cheesy Disney princess who wishes upon a star and thinks her prince charming is going to make her dreams come true. Instead, you be the person who does that. And if your dream doesn’t come true?

Say to hell with it, and get back to the work of dreaming.


5 thoughts on “Write On, Sister

  1. Excellent resolution! I’m trying to figure out how to carve out regular time in a sustainable way. There are just so many good ways to spend time, it’s hard to stick to only the *best* ways. You know?

  2. I had a lot to say about the first part of your post, but then I read the second half and I completely agree 🙂

    My Dad and I always plead the ‘I’m not in the mood’ excuse when we need to write something, but then suddenly (days before or even hours before the deadline) the mood unfailingly strikes. Do you ever find that sometimes, however rarely, you might have a moment or two but would much rather do something else?

    Maybe try having a tap recorder or small notepad on hand? That way you could jot down all your immediate thoughts and ideas and if you’re only able to find some time one day a week, you could skim back through those ideas and prioritise which you have the time to work on. A little bit of dream with a little bit of reality?

    Haha, that probably doesn’t even make sense, but hopefully it might help skirt the issue of not having time to sit down at your laptop when inspiration strikes.

    PS – For what little it’s worth, I tell all my friends that my cousin is a writer – there is a small nook of the world that will never know you as anything else.

    PPS – Thanks for the Christmas/birthday card 🙂

  3. I agree, Melissa. Time management skills that endure, for the long term, when spread to different tasks, has always been hard for me to do! But good luck with it in 2010.

  4. And if I’m only known as a writer to friends of my cousin, on the other side of the earth — well, that’s plenty good enough for me!

  5. You’re right, Anjali, to focus on the writing rather than the hustling. In fact, don’t even try to schedule time for writing. You have a life–apparently complete with a wonderful little crazy-face–and a world to live in. Go ahead. Live your life.

    When my son was little, I had to fit the things I did for my own sanity in around his needs. I tried hiring a neighbor girl to babysit and wound up leaping off the phone with my agent to rescue him when he fell out of her hands off the couch and beaned himself on the coffee table. After awhile, the schedule juggling was simply more trouble than it was worth.

    He needed me. He wouldn’t always. But he did during those years.

    What fiction contributes to the quality of your life is great. What it detracts is not worth worrying about.

    Whatever you write, whether or not you publish in the long run, wherever you go with it, always remember: it’s just fiction. Live your life.


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