What’s keeping you away from your work?
I’ve ushered in 2017 with a load of client work, presumably keeping me from my creative projects. Many creatives are able to strike a balance between the work that pays for their groceries and the work that feeds their soul, but I’ve never found that balance for myself; it’s all or nothing for me. I hugely commend you if you’re one of those marvelous multi-taskers. I’m starting to think I’m using this client work as a way to avoid the much harder trial of staring down a blank page.
No, hang on, let me be real: I KNOW I’M USING CLIENT WORK TO AVOID CREATIVE WORK.
Have you been avoiding writing, too? What’s your excuse?
“The creative attitude has to be in full swing, mind clear of all refuse — the stuff that worries, depresses or causes fear. I squeeze in short story writing while I can and revisions on my own novels. That effort is a slow process in comparison, requiring more complex creative thinking. Regardless of pace, I have to be open to creativity’s strange magnetism. I have to allow it to consume me, and I have to be willing to give in wholeheartedly to the trance, stripped of the masks of life, unafraid to write from my very core. There’s no room for Pollyanna or agenda in such moments.”
— Nicholas Belardes
That line there: “unafraid to write from my very core.” I’m only beginning to understand what it means to write fearlessly, and let me tell you: It can be terrifying to tell the truth in your fiction. But it’s necessary, and we can only get there once we strip away prejudice.
Make a list, either on paper or your computer. Title it “My excuses for avoiding writing.” Write freely, without overthinking. Here, I’ll join you.
My excuses for avoiding writing
- Client work
- Stuck on a plot point for weeks
- The office/house needs organizing
- Email management
- Low energy
- Time for a new project, and I don’t have any ideas
Eek, I’m cringing. Some of those excuses read as whiny, but what I’m gathering from the second and sixth bullet points is that I need inspiration. And that’s manageable!
If you’ve written before, you know you can do it. There’s no need for fear.
If you have other responsibilities, well, duh, you’re human. You think Cheryl Strayed and George Saunders only sit around writing all day? Not so. They have to clean their homes, read email, sleep at night, mow the lawn, engage with their families — They have to do all the things we humans do; they’re just closer to figuring out that creative life balance.
While reading Kerry Egan’s On Living last week, I hurriedly copied down these three lines, which I’m using as a jumping-off point for this year:
“Become who you want to be while you can enjoy it. Don’t put off doing the work of becoming who you want to be. Waiting will not make it easier, and time is short.”
— On Living, by Kerry Egan
What I love about her words is that they’re so simple. We can overcomplicate the way creativity plays out in our lives, but the truth is that it’s up to us to make it work.
Who do you want to become? If you’re anything like me, you want to become a writer who finds ways to fit in creativity without becoming totally frazzled.
So let’s do it, damnit.
Thanks for reading! I’m Katie Lewis, a writer, editor and journalist. I work with creative writers, content marketers, community managers and others to collaborate on impactful pieces of writing — such as novels, short stories, email marketing campaigns, website content, modern resumes and confident cover letters. If you resonated with this piece, I’d love to hear more from you: in the comments, on Twitter or on my blog.
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