Friday, January 30, 2015

Kate Hewitt: When Is It Okay Not To Write?

A piece of advice that is often given to aspiring writers is to write everyday, no matter what. This is, in it’s own way, good advice, because I think it’s important to write consistently, and also to write sacrificially. By that I mean you have to give up another activity in order to write—otherwise life will crowd writing out, guaranteed.

However… I didn’t do any writing yesterday. I had a grumpy toddler, four loads of laundry, and people coming to dinner. I didn’t even answer my emails. And that’s okay, because I recognize there are times when I cannot write. I just can’t.

Last month my father was seriously, even gravely, ill. There were a couple of days where I wasn’t sure what the outcome was going to be. Thankfully he’s better now, but when that was happening, I simply did not have the head space to write. Some people find writing an escape from the stresses and trials of life. Some don’t. In that situation, writing wasn’t an escape; it was just another demand on my time and energy. So for a week or so, I didn’t write anything. And I told myself that was okay.

I remember when I was in college I read the book Letters to a Young Poet by Rainier Maria Rilke. He writes: “Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”

I really hate that quotation. I love writing. My husband will tell you I get grumpy if I don’t write for more than a few days. But if I couldn’t write? Would I die? Would I want to die? No. I would find another creative outlet. And I hope you would too.

There is so much pressure on women today, to be supermoms, full-time career women, and take care of the house, bills, laundry, etc. We have to do everything, and we have to do it amazingly well. We put this pressure on ourselves as much as society does, and writing shouldn’t be part of that pressure-filled world. Yes, if you want to be a serious, ie commercially successful, author, you need to write consistently. You need to work really hard. That’s no joke.

But when life is hard? When too much else is going on? Give yourself permission to relax. To refill the well. And remember there is so much more to life than writing.


Liz Flaherty said...

Very nice post. Writers are all so different that there is no "one size fits all" for any advice out there. I convinced myself to write every day because it was what worked for me, the inevitable down side being the guilt thing when I don't make it.

dstoutholcomb said...

great advice