by Chanta Combs
As winter wanes and spring blossoms with new growth and new promises, we hope you are finding time for your writing life. Have you envisioned what success will look like for you? Or, perhaps, you’ve spent some time in recent weeks writing an Author Mission Statement to clarify your intentions? As we have mentioned in recent blog posts, these are valuable tools for creating the writing life you seek. Another important component of this journey is establishing a ritual or carving time out to become the writer you want to be.
Who (or What) Runs Your Life?
It’s true—lists dominate my life. I have lists for my professional assignments (finalize a presentation, send this month’s invoices), my parental duties (get invitations for his birthday party, finalize the enrollment forms for summer camp), my home (fix the broken lamp, get estimates to replace the sod)—not to mention my lists for the grocery store, the pet store, and all the other errands required for life to feel functional from week to week. Oh—and don’t forget—the lists I use to prioritize all my other lists.
Escaping the Vicious Cycle
I agree; it’s a little neurotic. But I tell myself that without my lists, I would never get anything done, which is a lie. Truthfully, I really use my lists as a perverse rewards system. If I can just get these five things done, then I will have time to write. If I can just run all my errands, then I will actually have the mental capacity to create. The problem: with every task eliminated, three more seem to pop up. As such, the lists run in perpetuity, and I never really find time to do the things that make life meaningful.
Needless to say, it’s an exhausting and counter-productive cycle. So, how do I overcome this huge obstacle that keeps me from being the writer I want to become?
A New Way of Thinking
Divorcing myself from my lists is one remedy—but probably a superficial (albeit somewhat liberating) one. What I really need is a different mindset; I simply need to accept that writing is as inherent to my well-being as brushing my teeth or sleeping.
Writing is a cathartic, all-consuming pleasure for me. When I am lost in this journey, time passes swiftly, meals become secondary, endorphins flood my body. Even when I’m not writing, story ideas fill my daydreams; character development, plot arcs, and transitions distract me from my worries and provide an escape from the ennui of the day-to-day grind.
So, why do I deny myself the pleasure of getting lost in a writing project? Because I put everything else—my job, my family, my friends, the world’s expectations of me, and my interminable lists—ahead of writing. Despite the fact that it is one of my first and longest-lasting true loves, I simply don’t make writing a priority. And, to be totally honest, I also feel some insecurity—that I don’t have anything meaningful to add to the cacophony that already reverberates throughout our lives.
The Ritual of Writing
For the words inside to reveal themselves and for me to overcome my fears, the physical act of writing must be done. Creating a writing schedule, preparation rituals, and a routine are the keys to making writing a priority in our daily lives. Some questions that each of us should consider as we continue to envision the writing life we seek:
- How much time will you spend writing per day or per week?
- Will you write at a specific time of day and in a particular place?
- What is your favorite writing instrument or journal?
- Will you create a ritual—for example, making a cup of tea, lighting a candle, playing soft music—to create the ideal environment for your work?
By creating new habits, each of us will slowly start to change how we think about writing as an integral part of our lives and how we view ourselves as writers. With time and practice, these new rituals will become routine, and we will start to wonder how we ever lived without them. Then, writing will become a priority—not simply a carrot that we hold out to ourselves as a reward for getting everything else done first.
For guidance to clarify your idea of success as a writer and to create your personal Author Mission Statement, check out these recent posts:
- What is Success? by Rhett DeVane
- Why Do You Write? (Part 1 of the two-part article on creating your mission statement)
- Designing Your Writing Life (Part 2)