There are many ways that one can enter into the writing life. Out of necessity, whether it’s part of a job or a drive from that creative part of ourselves, curiosity, because it’s what we’ve been raised around, or due to love. Heather Sellers, in her book Page After Page, asks, “Is your writing life going to be a lover in the center of your life? The thing you pulse toward, the fever in your soul? Or is your writing life more of a casual crush, something you think about, but don’t do much about?” On the tail end of this question is her statement, which addresses everyone’s go-to excuse for not doing whatever they think they should or could or would be doing, if only they were: “Not being busy. That is the greatest, most fearless act we can commit. . .Being, and not distracting ourselves with the illusion of the power that is busy.” We’ve all done it. We announce to the world that we’re going on vacation, we’re starting a remodel on the kitchen, we’re going to get in shape, or write the great American novel. Six months later, when our tribe asks us how we’re doing on our pronounced dream, we admit with a touch of embarrassment, “Well, I’ve been busy.”
I’ve done it myself, witnessed it in many people. If we value something, we make time for it. It becomes the center of our life, part of who we are, of how we spend our limited time on earth. As Sellers agrees, “To create a writing life, you will need to fall in love—deeply, seductively, passionately—with your writing life.” And then what happens? If we choose to make creativity an integral part of our life, it’s like beginning a new relationship. “You find yourself not paying bills on time, not showing up for boring things, spacing out during tedious conversations. Why would you go anywhere else? When you are loving, you are magnetized to Source. . .People who are madly in love are not busy.” It’s a choice, like most things in life. If we choose to not heed the call, to refuse creativity (in any form), then we can choose ‘busyness’. However, “If you choose him, Busyness, as your lover, you must promise not to complain about your choice.” It’s an oath we make to ourselves, and to everyone around us. They will get tired of asking about our ‘love’, our ‘interest’, if we repeatedly make excuses. “Choose what you want to be in the center. Make your center an inviting place. Stop complaining.”
The ‘items’ needed for beginning a writing life are: “1. The ability (gets better with practice, just like anything) to spend time alone in your room writing on your paper with a cheap pencil. 2. Self-knowledge (the ability to see your own mental weirdness and bad thinking habits). 3. Access to a library. . . 4. On observant heart. (Everyone is born with this item.) . . .Writing is a luxury. You have the time to write (work on your mental habits). You have the ability to write (work on your writing practice),. . .” There are some pursuits of creativity that do require a bit more preparation, more ‘items’ than writing does, but even for painting or cooking, one can begin with the basics. A child’s watercolor set, maybe whatever is already in the fridge and pantry is enough to just get started. Remember, I’m a big supporter of ‘starting from where you are’ which includes ‘with what you have’. I agree that our ability will get better, especially if we commit to making creativity our ‘center’, or at least an important part of our life. Self-knowledge comes with the practice. A huge part of that practice is understanding ourselves, even the scary, dark corners filled with shadows we try desperately to ignore. A library, because we can’t be writers unless we are readers. And that includes reading outside of your genre. If you write poetry, read steam punk. If you love horror, try romance. Remember, the words, images, phrases, and voice of other writers helps to feed our own Muse. Without an observant heart, no one would be able to create anything.
“To write, you need to simply write. The tools of your trade are in you. Don’t make it harder than it is.” Sound advice. Sage wisdom. Creating is hard enough. Not necessarily the ideas, but the courage it takes to use pen, brush, spatula, chisel, camera, or musical notes to bring something into being that hasn’t been before, nor ever will be again. A lot like you.
And once we commit to the creative life, we’ll find that our Muse will tease and entice us (like the lover we invited her to be) with delicious, sultry, sweet, and intriguing images, words, and ideas. All of these can be recorded in a journal. “A journal can’t be a chore. Your journal has to be like wine or friendship or dessert or telephone conversations—free form, light, engaged, enriching, pleasant, attached.” A journal can be a formal book, large or small, spiraled or bound, blank or lined. It can be napkins, sticky-notes, index cards, or on a program in your smart phone or computer.
So, what do we do once we’ve made the commitment, invited creativity into a place of honor in our life, and we have a handful of jotted notes regarding ideas? We do the time. Not the ‘busyness’ that we’ve decided to leave behind. The ‘butt in chair’ time. Sellers mentions that it’s easier for athletes and yoga practitioners because they’re used to being ‘alone with themselves’. Why is it harder for others? “Well, there you are. You. All your demons and failings and mind-chatter, and messiness. You think doing the laundry will cleanse you! You think if you keep moving you won’t have to deal, listen, see, know. . .Sitting alone in a room by yourself is very hard.” Or, if you’re like me, you don’t always sit alone. There are innumerable places to go and write, draw, paint, dance, or photograph. Regardless of the setting, you still need: “Patience. A high tolerance for anxiety. Skills for self-knowledge. This is the skill that is called Butt in Chair. Butt in Chair is how the writing gets done. To develop a successful writing life you must be able to focus and concentrate.” There is patience involved. We wait, quietly, for the words, the images, and then we listen, maybe push for a little more, then we record what the Muse gives us. And it does take concentration. But how difficult is it to focus on something that we love, that ‘thing’ that we’ve coaxed into that precious space of our life called Time?
“If you have been concentrating, you will feel a number of things at the end of your session: 1. That time slipped away. . . 2. Pleasantly exhausted. . . 3. Inclined to look over (aka ‘judge’) your work (DON’T!).” We know we experience these sensations when we partake in activities that are easy for us and that we enjoy. So why would creativity be any different?
And so the question to you remains open. Will you commit to the creative life? Will you seduce the Muse to fill the center of your life like a lover? Spend time with her, lavish attention on her, and not complain about the lack of busyness that you traded for this new life? Leave a comment as to your choice to embrace the creative life. I have. My results can be viewed at www.myjoyenterprises.com