This week the LitChat topic on Twitter has been creative battlegrounds. What is meant by that, I learned after asking, is all those things that get in the way of putting word on the page. Being the contrarian that I am, I said that I see no creative battlegrounds for me, only creative opportunites. So of course someone replied, "Lucky you."
I am lucky, lucky in so many ways, not least of which is that I get paid for doing work that I love: writing.
But I also think that the mental state of luckiness has as much to do with a practiced and determined mental attitude as it does with any sort of external form of luck like, I don't know, being tapped with a magic wand.
Here are some of the things I regularly hear other writers say get in the way of their creating:
1) I have a spouse who's not a writer and she/he doesn't understand;
2) I have kids to take care of;
3) I have other obligations, like cooking and taking care of the house;
4) I get distracted by Twitter etc.
5) and so forth.
There's not a thing in the above list you can't fix, especially "and so forth," and not a single one of the fixes involves loading a gun and shooting people.
1) Your spouse doesn't understand your need to write? Then you need to sell it better. You need to explain that this is something that's important to you as a person, something that has become tied up in your happiness and your sense of self. Don't feel that you have to apologize for making time for that which matters to you. If you treat your writing as a hobby then you can't be surprised if other people treat it that way too. If you wanted to go back to school to become a doctor or a marine biologist, would you feel the need to apologize for spending time studying anatomy textbooks or whatever it is that marine biologists study? No, I didn't think so.
2) You have kids? Well, who doesn't, except of course for people who don't. I have a kid. I like to say I wrote the first draft of Vertigo in fall 2000 while breastfeeding that kid, and I'm hardly even exaggerating. Some of the best parenting advice I ever received came from a friend who's never had children. She said, "If your daughter sees you doing things that matter to you, it doesn't make you selfish. It means she'll grow up to be the kind of woman who respects her own interests and makes sure that others do as well." That has indeed proven to be the case. My daughter's nine years old. She has zero doubt that I love her to pieces but she also understands that sometimes I need to work and that my work is writing. Oh, and last year? She wrote a play for 22 parts and yesterday she began brainstorming a second play. You see she's realized that writing is a pretty cool thing to do.
3) You need to cook and clean? Oh come on now. You can't expect me to buy that. The microwave is a wonderful invention and there are amazing organic frozen meals you can buy so you don't have to sacrifice nutirition for convenience. As for cleaning, here's my motto: If nothing's crawling, it's clean enough. You think I jest? Try stopping by here sometime without calling first. It'll be a real eye-opener. I'll give you a glass of wine to help you recover. Soon you won't mind the mess. Anyway, cleaning is overrated. An overly antiseptic environment can actually cause illness because people's bodies don't get a chance to naturally develop germ-fighting defenses. Really, I'm doing my family a big favor, being the way I am.
4) Twitter etc - all those online watercoolers are big distractions, aren't they? You need to prioritize. You need to use these places only to take palate-cleansing breaks during your writing periods or as your morning coffee or as your reward at the end of the day. You need to readjust your thinking: These places *aren't* distractions; you're *allowing them to become* distractions. Take back the power. Respect your own time. Set your writing goals each day, get the work done, and then once it's finished, play as much as you like.
5) And so forth? 'Fraid you're on your own with this one. Honestly, you can't expect me to do all the work here, can you? After all, I've got books to write.
Bottom line: What's the biggest thing standing in the way of your creativity? In most instances, it's probably you.
Am I saying that if the writing isn't getting done, it means you're some sort of lightweight or that you don't want it enough?
No. So please stop throwing things at me.
But I am saying that if the writing isn't getting done, it may be because you haven't given yourself permission to want something for yourself.
It's OK to want things for yourself.
It's OK to create a life and an environment that gives you the best opportunity to achieve those things.
So get to it.
And yes, I am lucky.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ALL THIS?
Be well. Don't forget to write.
P.S. "But what about those of us with day jobs?" I hear some of you say as I try to escape out the back door. Here's what I say back: While trying to get published, I had as many as four simultaneous part-time jobs. I still set daily writing goals and met them, because I made writing a priority in my life.
And now I really am out the door.