Writing Is Essential to My Life: 10/365

On Tuesday a writer friend and I were looking at each other’s work, just some fragments from a prompt. The conversation drifted to the challenge of finding enough time to write…those slivers of free minutes among parenting, work, job search, school, and all the big and little demands that comprise a life. How is our energy best spent? Am I stealing time from my child, my spouse? Doubt edges in. Is writing even worth it?

The short answer is yes. HELL, YES. We picked up this conversation again in an email. I talked about the publishing industry and then music…and how it’s worth carving out your place, whatever your artistic medium. Writing, artistic pursuit, is about process and discovery and connection. But here’s the thing – even apart from all that, writing is just something I have do. It’s something I’ve never been able to stop doing. It is essential to my life. Writing and connecting with other writers, talking about process and craft, talking about art and life, it lights me up. It’s who I am.

In this teaser for the documentary Temple of Art, Neil Gaiman says:

If you are some kind of writer, if you are some kind of artist, mostly what you’re doing is, you’re bricklaying. You’re taking a brick and you’re putting it place. And you’re taking another brick, and you’re putting it in place. No one’s going to do it for you. Elves will not come in the night. So if you do not put down all of these bricks, the wall will never get built. And if the wall is never built, the rest of the structure will never get built. It won’t exist. So you pick up another brick. And you put it down. Then you pick up another brick. And you put it down. And that’s how you build the temple of art.

This daily practice feels exactly like that – bricklaying. Every day, I pick up another brick. And I put it down. Ten days of bricklaying and I’ve already connected with other writers, had dozens of meaningful exchanges and conversations, and I’ve gotten more writing done in these last ten days than in the last six months. So, I will keep on. I will pick up another brick, and I will put it in place.

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5 thoughts on “Writing Is Essential to My Life: 10/365

    • You’re right, it felt like the perfect metaphor. I’ve realized the daily commitment to this practice keeps me connected to the simple act of “doing”. There isn’t time to overthink or second-guess, which feels so liberating as I’m a chronic over-thinker – which leads to second-guessing (I just made that connection right now – it’s my over-thinking that trips me up). I’m busy with the doing and the making, and I’m so much happier because of it. And I’m finding my initial hypothesis, writing begets writing, is true.

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      • I’m an over-thinker too (#17), and there’s just no time for that when each day you have to not only do the normal stuff but also think of something about yourself and write it down. For over-thinkers, it turns out that no time to think is a side benefit of a 365-day project : )

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  1. Such good advice. Julia Cameron has a similar metaphor – I believe she says “laying down tracks.” I love to think of writing sometimes as simply a trade–I don’t know why I say simply– but instead of always saying – is this good enough, is this brilliant, is this amazing – just writing, just like you’d lay down the tracks or the bricks. Something good might come out or you might tear it down and start again but either way it’s the only way forward.

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    • So true, Rachel! I was just reading an essay that likened writing to carpentry. “Simply a trade” is a beautiful way of putting it – the crafting, the mistakes, the revision, the time, the process. And yes, “something good might come out or you might tear it down and start again but either way it’s the only way forward.” Sometimes those tear-downs have to happen in order to get the result we’re after. I think when we look at writing in this way, it dissolves preciousness, that nagging feeling that it must be great (or at least really good). I have to continually remind myself that everything – writing and life – are always in flux, always in process. Every time I read a perfectly polished piece of work, I have to remember, this took time and labor – it did not arrive perfect and whole.

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