Since I began writing seriously in the spring of 2008, there have been a few times where I’ve stepped away from the craft, turned my back on my Muse, and busied myself with other life pursuits. During those times, I have been far less happy and settled. Lesson learned. Walking away from my full-time job and career of over 21 years as a public school teacher should have offered me the opportunity I dreamed of, which was to spend hours each day courting my Muse and lovingly accepting myriad words that would flow effortlessly from my pen. Contrary to my dream, other circumstances made it convenient to place blame on them instead of my reluctant trust in creativity and fear that I would forever be out of ideas. I believed I was being ignored, punished, by my Muse. In reality, I was the one doing the ignoring. As I once again tested the creative waters, I turned to books on the craft. There is much inspiration to be found in the words of others who have pushed through excuses and laid out crumbs for others, like me, to find our way.
Page After Page, by Heather Sellers, is one such book. It’s small, but carries many wise words. As I’ve done in the past, I’m going to use this forum as a way to not only get myself back in the habit of more trust and less fear, but I’m also going to share the gems from Heather’s book that speak to me. It just so happens, that this spark of motivation coincides with my follow through on reserving a room at the local library for a writing workshop. I’ve never offered one, but have shared much information with fellow creatives. The time is right for me to step out of the dark once again and invite others to join me.
I agree with many other writers in that writing, in fact all creative pursuits, is one of the hardest things you can do. But just because it’s hard, it doesn’t have to be strenuous work. As Heather writes, “In my dream vision for your writing life, you don’t have to make yourself write. It’s not work. It’s not tedious or punishing. It’s what you do. A happy, productive writing life is like a simple, perfect dinner, or prayer and meditation. It’s soul food.” How simply put. That embracing a writing life is a pleasant, joyful, and an integrated part of the whole, like dinner and meditation.
She goes on to say, “Like anything else that looks effortless and beautiful-cliff diving, racing, dancing-writing takes an almost inhuman ability to focus. Creating a writing life requires growth and self-knowledge on your part. There will be bumps in the road as you become a writer: parts that are boring, lonely, tedious, silly, selfish, and extremely frustrating. That’s all a part of writing.” A writing life is all this and more. It isn’t for the weak-willed, but I don’t know much that is worthwhile in life that is. When one steps into the creativity that I believe is innate in all of us, it requires some adjusting, including all the things, especially the scary stuff, you’ll learn about yourself.
Her advice on setting up a writing life, knowing the work that will be involved, and keeping the procrastination (read: fear) under control? “Invite yourself into the writing life like you invite a lover upstairs. . . . That is the right attitude toward your new writing life. Seductive, pleasure-seeking, and fun.” I agree. There are already so many things that we have to cajole ourselves into doing, whether it’s taking out the trash or sending holiday cards. So why not court your Muse? Write love letters to your creativity. Light a candle as you sit down to work on your current project. Go on dates (a suggestion from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way). Put together a play list of uplifting or sultry or playful music. Human beings are more inclined to engage in something that is pleasant rather than an activity that requires self-flagellation.
So I invite you to begin to devise ways in which to welcome yourself into the writing life. It takes time, thoughtfulness, and courage. But you won’t be alone. I, too, am once again taking up this path, and hope that the participants in my writing workshop will also embrace the work and the love of a creative life. Have ideas on how you’re going to start? Share them in the comments section. Visit my website to see the path I began in 2008: www.myjoyenterprises.com