3 Writing and Creativity Intentions to Live By

Writing Check-Up

You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.”
-The Upanishads

I’ve never been very good at meditating, but it’s time to give setting intentions a try — to live purposefully and stay focused instead of going about life just trying to get through the day. I’m starting with three simple things that I think any writers and people looking to reconnect with their creative side can relate to, and I’m putting them down in writing in hopes that you — our community of writers, readers, thinkers, dreamers — can hold me accountable, and as an invitation to share your own intentions.

1. Grant myself time to do what I love

With everything that we have to do, it can be hard to save the time and energy for the things we want to do. Even if I have time to write at the end of a busy day, I’m often too tired, or have errands to run, or just want to turn my brain off. When I do that, I’m cheating myself of actually doing what I love in favor of what’s easy. To really change that habit, I need consistency, so I’m committing to writing every day, whether it’s poetry, fiction, screenplays, or this blog (but work and emails don’t count). In the past few weeks since I’ve started, I’ve missed a day here and there, but I’m feeling encouraged by my progress. I’ve written some weird new poems in a style unlike what I’ve written before. I’ve revised poems that have been sitting around for a few years being mediocre. I’ve jotted down lines on post-it notes at lunchtime. I’ve woken up at 4 am with something in my head I need to write down immediately, which hasn’t happened in a long time. It’s not a pretty simile, but I feel like I’ve unclogged a drain, and the water is starting to flow again.

2. Share myself courageously

It takes a lot to share work and open it to criticism, especially when it’s personal. If you’ve ever been in a writing or art workshop, you’ve probably seen students (or been one) who left in tears, got in a heated argument, or stopped showing up because the critique got to be too much. That’s just sharing your work with people you know, who are also sharing theirs with you; sending it out to strangers is a different scary world. I got used to that, and when I was in grad school and soon after submitted my work to a number of journals and got a handful published. Then I tried targeting publications considered more “prestigious” to try my luck (Poetry, Ploughshares, Tin House, Narrative, etc.), which seemed like a natural next step at the time, but I got rejection after rejection. I needed a break from that — but the break went on longer than I intended.

The break is over. I’m not going to achieve my goals with my work just sitting around, and I gave myself the nudge I needed to start sending it out again. I got organized and am blocking off time to send out 10 submissions/month, which is a combination of sending individual poems to journals and anthologies, submitting my collection to first book contests and open reading periods, and applying to retreats and fellowships. So far it’s working: in the two months I’ve been submitting again I’ve had four poems accepted by journals and two by an anthology. (The first of them came out in TIMBER last week.) I’ve gotten a few rejections too, but but the good far outweighs the bad, and I feel like I’ve rejoined a community of poets I didn’t realize how much I’d missed.

3. Embrace the silence

When I’m not running from meeting to meeting or in a dash to hit deadlines, when I’m alone, I’m in the habit of filling the silence — with music, podcasts, or YouTube videos, with making up songs, with talking to myself. But I’m trying to give myself time to sit in the silence. That’s when the ideas come. Sometimes it’s a poem, or a story idea, or a notion of how to solve a problem at work. I think we keep creativity at bay when we cram noise and activity into every moment of our day. It needs space to fill its lungs and come to life, and quiet, so we can hear it when it speaks.

Jessica Beyer
writer │ educator │ wanderer