Friday, March 27, 2009

A Fire in the Belly

I have often been accused of being 'too hard on myself'. I'm the first to admit that I like to set the bar high. I even set it so higher than it is possible to achieve - when it comes to art and fiction. In writing this blog my advice has often verged on aggressiveness in regard to my stance on what writers should do. In other words I tell them to write. No matter what just write. A few people have taken me to task for this. It's true - not everyone has room in their life to take as much time out for writing as I do now, or enough time to get into the studio and paint, or sculpt, or whatever is they do, but that is because they have set other things as higher priorities.

When I was a single parent of a kid under the age of his majority I had to set a couple things as higher priorities than my writing or art. I had to make sure he had a roof over his head, food on the table, a good school nearby, and a pair of the right shoes to fit in with his peers. This often meant some sacrifices. Back when he was quite small I decided to become a painter. At times I was able to indulge myself, but when times got harder I had to cut back to the point that I didn't have a studio to paint in. For me to do oil paintings meant that if I didn't have a studio I didn't tend to paint. I find landlords tend to keep your security deposit when you have ruined the walls and floor with paint and solvents (I'm a messy kind of painter). Oil paints and canvases are expensive. Their acquisition interfered with buying food and paying rent. Working freelance for a time meant that I found myself with less time as well. This was okay - because my priority had to be the young life I was responsible for. That didn't take away my urge to create though. I found a way to do both.

I found myself on the computer a lot. This is when I began to write more earnestly. When I first started it was definitely only an outlet for my frustrated artist-self. Gradually, however, I found it was something that I could manage as a single parent and sole support of my difficult offspring. Collaborative writing, in particular, was suited because I could write in small chunks when time afforded, which was between work deadlines or when unmanageable demon-spawn offspring was finally restive (passed out or zoned in to his then obsession with Wrestlemania).

As I began to learn the craft of writing, I was beating myself up a lot over not painting. How could I call myself an artist if I didn't do the one thing that qualified me as an artist, i.e. make art? I still wrestle with this problem since I have found that my inspiration for painting is either on or it is off. I don't dabble. As a writer I have shown far more consistency. It fits in with my life style better. I can find room for it in my day. I can get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later. It's true I haven't written the novel that I planned so many years ago, but I have maintained a pretty decent writing schedule for years now. Now the child is grown and I can change my priorities back to the creative life so it's even easier than before to justify the time, but that doesn't mean other things don't get in the way. I just have to remember to move them back out of my way again.

Setting the bar high is my way of keeping a fire in my belly and a goad at my back. I don't beat myself up for not achieving my goals; I beat myself up for not trying to achieve my goals. So again I say to you: you want to be a writer? Find the time to write. Even if you have to take a notepad to the crapper and lock the door, write. It's just that simple.

But don't forget to live - yesterday I spent the day at the beach combing for interesting stones - because you have to write about what you know.


Lynnette Labelle said...

Finding the time to write is part of the reason I started writing my blog again. I'm forced to keep up with it five days a week, so even if I don't get a chance to work on my WIP (because that requires more concentration and no little kids running/screaming), I'm still writing. It all counts, right?

Lynnette Labelle

Pan Historia said...

It sure does count! That's why I write on my blog - particularly on the days I can't find the time to concentrate on my fiction. Screaming kids can be a trial.

Scarecrow said...

I watched a friend sketch out an entire novel in a notebook while drinking a martini in a restaurant. Every chapter, breaking down scenes, notes about character development and motivation, important little details & their placement. When she finished she said "Now that the hard part's done, I think I'll have another drink."

I think sometimes people don't find time to write because they don't know what to write. Their goal is to write a novel, but they don't know what their novel is about or what happens along the way. But I always tell people just write. Find the time and write. Easy for me to say, I have no intention of writing a novel, but I like to write. I like the freedom of it. It should be seen as a pleasure not a chore.

Leave notebooks and pens scattered throughout your house, in your car, whatever it takes, just write.

Helen Ginger said...

I'm finding that it helps to use a timer. I bought one for my desk. I have multiple projects going on, so I set the timer for each one. An hour on editing work, an hour on contract writing work, an hour on my own writing, an hour to blog and visit other blogs, etc. I change the time allotment as I need to.

Pan Historia said...

I have tried leaving notebooks around the house. Sometimes I get my best ideas driving though. That's when I had my idea for The Bitter Sky collaborative novel I started recently on Today I had another scifi story idea while driving, probably inspired by the juxtaposition of California's counterculture and it's culture of fast food and plastic surgery. More on that later...

Helen - cool. Yes, I can see that tip working. I know it won't work for me because of my personality type but I will suggest it to others to try because I can see that it really could work for some.

Jenny Beans said...

Wyatt, this was a very inspirational post. I try not to beat myself up, but sometimes you're right. You have to light a fire under yourself to get up off the ground.

Pan Historia said...

Welcome Jenny! Yes, the point is to keep the fire going, but not to make yourself feel worthless.