You have to keep your writing on life support, and give it oxygen. Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint it Black
Write On Wednesday has certainly flat-lined over the past few weeks, hasn’t it? The rest of my life, however, has gone rushing past, reminding me of those scenes from ER when the paramedics come crashing through the doors shouting “GSW to the chest! He’s tachycardic and bleeding out! Get me an amp of epi! STAT!”
Happily, nothing that serious has occurred for me, but in the midst of general life busyness – training a new employee at work, rehearsals for three new musical events, a week’s vacation with a friend – the last few Wednesday’s seemed to come and go in a flash, and writing on that day was truthfully the farthest thing from my mind.
Just as life sometimes mirrors the chaos of a hospital trauma ward, so does ones artistic practice occasionally wither and languish from neglect. When that happens to me, I panic a bit, and tend to rush in with haphazard attempts at revival. These include everything from searching through my “How to Write” library to rummaging around the web looking for new writing prompts. I go out and buy myself new notebooks and pens. I download lots of podcast interviews with writers. I re-read some of my favorite authors. Basically, I transfuse myself with inspiration from other writers – the famous and the not-so famous.
When I get the pulse going again, it’s time to look at prevention. How to protect myself from suffering this same disease in the future?
Most often, neglecting my writing occurs when I allow daily life to overwhelm me. For example, Sunday morning while I was unloading the dishwasher, I thought of a novel to write. Research would be required – lots of it, but that’s all right, I love research. I began thinking about the biographies I would need to read, the historical period I would need to study. Some of the very books I needed were on my bookshelves, I could get started right away.
But first, there was church, and I had to be there to play duets in the service. And then I had promised my aunt I would take her grocery shopping that day. Of course, I really had to work at the score for Sweet Charity, since rehearsals at the community theater were beginning Monday evening. Sunday drifted by, and Monday too, with an extra day at the office thrown into the mix this week. Now it’s Wednesday, and there’s work today, and (not one, but two!) rehearsals this evening.
Daily life has a way of infecting my writing life with a deadly virus.
“I have spent so long erecting partitions around the part of me that writes – learning how to close the door on ordinary life when it’s time to start writing again – that I’m not sure I could fit the two parts of me back together now,” wrote novelist Anne Tyler, in an essay entitled Still Just Writing. Perhaps I should put the writer part of me into quarantine occasionally, construct my own version of an isolation unit and admit myself when it’s time to start writing.
Perhaps that’s what I’m doing “write now,” sitting in my study at 6:30 a.m. while the rest of the house still sleeps.
How about you? Is your writing life healthy these days? How do you keep your writing life alive? What are some of the remedies you use to revive it?