While I’m on maternity leave with Baby Milo, a few dear friends have written pieces just for you all. I know you’ll enjoy them, and I hope you’ll find some new writers to follow and add to your community. Today’s post is from the wonderful Debra Smouse.
When I was a little girl, I longed to be a writer. I wanted to create new stories like my beloved Trixie Belden books. So, I wrote while ensconced in my closet. Pages and pages of stories of girl detectives and horses and such. As a teenager, I wrote journals. At first as an assignment by my English Teacher, and then for myself. Writing sparked something within me that nothing else did: not painting, not dance, not singing, nor reading.
I returned home from my honeymoon to discover that my mother had found all those old journals, read them, and destroyed pages and pages of them. “Your husband doesn’t need to read that stuff! What will he think?”
That was in 1987. In 2000, I discovered the world of blogs and began writing again. Though my writing practice hasn’t always been steady, the call to write has burned bright within me since I discovered that writing not only sparked something within me like it did when I was younger. Writing saved me.
The challenge outside of my fears of being censored or judged was one that everyone faces: the time to write. Yet, in those earliest of days when I rediscovered how much I needed to write for the sake of my own sanity, I had two kiddos under the age of ten. There was laundry to wash and meals to make and kids to bathe. My (now ex) husband worked in the evenings, so after working at an office all day, everything to do with household management and kid care was up to me.
The solution that seemed to work best for me: I rose at 4 AM every morning. I made coffee and would write until 4:45. Then I’d head to the gym for the morning workout.
See, a lot of my writing was a secret, so the excuse of rising at 4 AM that folks bought was getting to the gym when it opened at 5 AM. But it wasn’t the gym that was the motivator, it was the thirty to forty-five minutes of sitting at a keyboard that did it.
The number one challenge of creating a nourishing writing life for anyone is the same one I faced back in 2000. And the one I still face today: time to sit at the keyboard and pour my thoughts onto paper.
Today, my life is more ideally suited for the writing life that most folks imagine. My kids are grown and out on their own. My commute involved walking down a flight of stairs to my home office. I am self-employed as a life coach and I keep my client list small, actively coaching no more than three days a week. My partner has a more traditional job, which means I have the house to myself from 8 AM to 4 PM most week days.
My biggest challenge to writing? You guessed it: time.
In between coaching clients, making meals, doing laundry, running errands, and all the other sundry things we must do to tend a life, I have to carve out the time to write. And though it appears I have lots of time to write, like everyone, I struggle to find time to write.
Now, it isn’t just that writing saves me, it’s also how I propel my business forward. I write regular blog posts and newsletters to keep the engine of my coaching practice going. I write articles for other websites to increase my visibility. I write books to further my career.
Deep down, I write because I must. Writing still saves me.
And the thing is, I want to write more books. And that means that I must find even more time to write.
I know what the true secret to finding more elusive time to write is, yet when I share this with most folks I get sighs and eyerolls. Because it isn’t a magic solution or a quick fix.
The secret: choose to make the time to write.
I can hear the excuses bubbling up inside you already. I know them well because the excuses bubble up inside of me, too. The first time someone told me I was always in a position of choice, all the reasons why that might apply to others but not ME burst forth.
Life is hard. We all have a lot of responsibilities. Things that we believe are have to. And, honestly, nothing in life is HAVE to, except dying. The flip side of this is that every single choice we make has a consequence.
Sometimes, the consequences are just more uncomfortable. That means that yes, you will have to make sacrifices in the pursuit of your writing life.
You don’t have to do laundry. The consequence of not doing laundry is that you (a) wear dirty clothes (b) buy new clothes or (c) skip clothes altogether. So, you can tell yourself that you HAVE to do laundry, but the truth is, you choose to do laundry so that you don’t face any of the uncomfortable consequences.
Everything in life is a choice.
Keeping the creative spark alive and burning, that urge to pour forth the stories that are within us, is a choice that I know we must make. Because writing saves us in so many big and small ways. That means, however, that when we choose to write, that choice means we are going to make some sacrifices.
We are going to have to give up doing things we want to do to make time and space for writing. We are going to have to make some hard choices sometimes, to say no to things that in some way feel like a HAVE to in order to make space to create.
I will admit that in order to choose your writing, you will often have to decide in advance what you are willing to let slide. Decide what consequences you are willing to live with.
You will have to decide in advance that your writing matters more than an immaculate house or a beach body. Maybe you decide to shower every other day, and on non-shower days spend that fifteen minutes at your desk. Maybe you choose writing over working out and live with a little extra weight around the middle.
Maybe you sacrifice sleep and get up thirty minutes before the rest of your family so that you can have that time at the keyboard. Maybe that means that you cut back on social media and use any time in front of the computer to write, not surf.
Maybe that means that you choose to skip a beloved TV show in order to write.
Maybe you choose to let others help you. You sacrifice your standards of folding clothes, making a meal, doing the dishes, or bathing your child and let someone else do it. Children, spouses, and in-laws are all perfectly capable of lending a hand; however, it means that you have to let go of control and let them do things their way.
The helpmate of choosing to write is planning and preparation. Plan your meals and spend a couple of hours meal prepping so that you buy back precious minutes to write. Plan what you (and your kiddos) will wear so that there’s no angst of getting out the door.
A creative life offers us choice. It demands that we choose, that we make decisions. It demands that we sacrifice something to get something else. I think this is where the creative spark dies for so many. When it comes to making a choice, people sacrifice something that shouldn’t be sacrificed: their own inner desire to create.
Sometimes, I wonder if it’s a sacrifice because of a perceived HAVE to or if it’s a way to shield ourselves from the fear of making as well? I think that’s another subject for another day – or another tangent.
It boils down to this: if you want to write, then that means you must choose to make space in your life for it. That also means that you have to choose not to do something else.
Sometimes, you have to make hard choices: the imperfect house, the mountain of laundry, the letting go of how others might judge you for your lack of imperfection. That choice also means giving up pleasures, like watching television and scrolling through Instagram.
For me, to choose writing means that I had to choose my old road warrior princess life. I choose to not be just a housewife, although that fulfills me in many ways. I choose not to coach clients every day, although that means I make less money.
Sacrifices a plenty. Yet the choice to write is what is saving me. Becoming more devoted to the writing life is nurturing a part of my soul that nothing else nourishes.
If you want to write, that means you have to choose to write. That writing life demands that you choose it over lots of other attractive things. Yet, Dear Ones, to the depths of my soul I know that this writing life is worth those sacrifices.
Because you and your story? They matter.