Saturday, January 22, 2011

Finding Creative Balance: Making Room for Your Writing in Your Life

Years ago, I gave up on New Year's resolutions.   Lots of people promised themselves the moon, but everything fell back into stasis by February.  Me too, back then.  I couldn't ever figure out how to make real, lasting transitions from what I was to what I wanted to become.

But I am still attracted to the possibility of change, especially in my creative life.  So I love
this time of year because it feels like I am giving myself permission to ask the big questions:  What do I want for my life and my writing in 2011?  How am I going to realistically transition between where I was last year and where I want to be?  Do I really, deep down, want to make changes--because I know that changes will require giving up something I have now.

I am teaching a wonderful group of book writers each week at Southern NH University during January and February.  Last class I posed this question:  What are you willing to let go of, in order to make room for your book?

The writers are at different stages in the book-writing journey.  Some are working on gathering material, still crafting "islands" of writing and not yet composing any continents out of them.  Others have a manuscript draft, or part of one, maybe 40,000 words or even 80,000.  But in the discussion last week, I learned that they've come to my class to get more than skills.  They want to make changes in how they approach their writing life, because they realize that's the only way to manifest a book.

A book is a marriage, as opposed to a one-night stand.  You're in it for a longer haul.  You need to make it something that has real room in your life.  You need to consider adjustments in your schedule when you take on a book, think about what you want to change in your writing rhythm based on what you want to produce on the page.

Last week I posted a chart I use in my workshops and online book classes, which helps a writer consider how to make these changes.  (Scroll down to last week's post to see more.)  When looking at the process of writing a book, some big resolutions emerge.  Here are a few from my students in past classes:

I want to go from stuck to unstuck, have less fear and Inner Critic talk
I want to begin making writing a priority in my life
I am emptied out; I need to somehow fill up the well of creativity in myself

Letting Go of the Old to Make Room for the New 
Two weeks ago, I talked about rhythm and community as two essentials in a writer's life.  Both are needed to make this kind of transition--a new way of approaching your writing life now that you've got a book cooking.  The rhythm is the first thing to consider.  It requires knowing when and where you write most easily.  But it also requires letting go of something you're doing now, that doesn't pay off as much as your book will.

Maybe you're like me--you've begun countless exercise programs that didn't stick.  I've joined gyms.  I've bought rebounders.  I've spent a lot of money on great equipment.  The only consistency I've gotten is to first figure out what I could give up to make time for exercising.  Whenever I did that, made sacred time and space in my schedule and allowed something else to fall away, I am able to stick to--and enjoy--daily exercise.

Same with writing rhythm.  It doesn't work, in my experience, to expect ourselves to make some magic leap to a new rhythm without first letting go of something that no longer serves our creativity.  So this week's exercise asks you to look at this question.

So you can promise yourself the moon, but also set up a plan to get there.
This Week's Writing Exercise
1.  Imagine your ideal writing time.  Would it be early morning or late at night?  Where would you write?  At home, in a cafe, at the library?

2.  Now look at an average day.  Where is there something you could give up to make time for this writing session?  You only have to find one this week.

3.  Finally do a 20-minute freewrite, and make notes about the benefits of what you're giving up.  What does it contribute to your life right now that you'd lose?  What would your writing contribute to your life that you're not getting at the moment?

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