In my inbox this morning was a blog post from The Write Practice called ‘Why You Should Take a Day Off from Writing’ and I need to say thanks to its author, Melissa Tydell.
Because I’ve been tying myself up in knots lately. I can’t seem to sit down and write and the more I recognise that I’m not making enough time, not making enough progress, the more difficult it gets. I start to question whether I’ve really got it in me:
“Writers write,” people tell us…
“Just show up,” the wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in her inspiring Ted Talk on creativity.
And so it is repeated in just about every book on writing that there is: the guilt is piled on and we come to believe that real writers write every single day; they too suffer procrastination and block, but they turn up every day to wrestle with those demons. Even on Thanksgiving.
Let’s get this clear: I write. I’ve written and re-written a full-length novel and have a home that’s filled with an arguably creepy number of notebooks. My living room floor was carpeted with notecards for four months of this year, until I decided to buy a couch and invite my boyfriend over for dinner.
Sometimes, when I find myself staring at people on the train and consumed by some narrative problem, I suddenly realise that the people around me don’t have these anxieties: they’re on their way to a party where they’ll laugh and gossip and talk about television or boys. It sounds to me so free, sometimes, when I realise that I’ve been struggling with an endless string of story or writing puzzles, consistently, for about fifteen years. Not everyone will be sipping mulled wine at their work Christmas party, pretending to interact as they try to work out exactly what a fictional man called Alfie should be thinking about as he sits through a long church service.
That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about for the last week. Every meeting I’ve had about energy bills has been slightly clouded by Alfie’s church presence. Every conversation I have with friends at my Thanksgiving party will be weighed down by this question. What the hell would he be thinking??
How amazing would I be at my job if that was not the case? How much deeper my relationships?
I’m a writer. I’m a writer because I write even when I don’t have a pen in my hand or a laptop on my knees. I’m a writer because I need to be.
I think a lot of people feel the guilt that I feel and I say we let it go. I say we allow ourselves a vacation – how much better will our writing be when we come back refreshed and renewed? When we’ve been fully open to the world and all its people?
What do you think? Am I lazy or am I right? Is it something in between?
Happy Thanksgiving Vacation!