What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

(Reverb 10 / Prompt Author: Leo Babauta)

It took me a while to stop laughing – I mean, there’s not much that does contribute to my writing these days.

And then I gave the question a second look.  Is that really true? The things that consume my time and my life – primarily my family and my health, but the little things as well, like laundry and what’s for dinner – get in the way of my writing.  They also inform and inspire my writing.

Reducing the time and energy I spend on my family is out of the question.  The new normal that is life impacted by cancer dictates that my health must remain a high priority – perhaps that should have been the case all along.  Nobody wants me to stop doing laundry – ok, well maybe those of you who only interact with me online may not care, but the population of our area code might.  There’s really not much fat to trim.

Oh, you mean all that time I spend on the internet – specifically on facebook?  And the TV, too?

Ok, I guess I do have a little down time here and there. But – yes, there’s a but, there’s always a but – my TV and internet time inform and inspire my writing as well.  Most of the time, my brain is buzzing with new ideas and perspectives I want to explore and discuss – ideas and perspectives gained through my interactions with these media.  My house is full of little scraps of paper on which I scribbled little nuggets of brilliance for future rumination and dissertation.

The rumination I’m good at; I looooooove me a good think.  Research makes my fingertips tingle, and my heart race with giddiness. Translating all that brain power into a post? nerve-wracking.

Writing is a declaration, a commitment. Fear of commitment does impact my writing practice. I can mull ideas in my head, comparing them to other ideas, and holding them up to the light without fear of rejection.  I have yet to hit the publish button on my blog without experiencing a racing pulse, and a bit of anxiety.

So why do I blog?  Why don’t I just keep all those delicious ponderings to myself?  Once again, the TV informs my writing: my daughter is watching “Horton Hears a Who” as I type. At this moment in the movie, the Whos are shouting for their lives, “WE ARE HERE!” I imagine all the bloggers of the world, furiously typing away at their keyboards, and the subtext of their carefully chosen and intricately woven prose is the same existential declaration: “We are here!”

Of course, I’m projecting; I can only speak for myself. Pondering my own mortality certainly feeds the need to declare my existence. But it’s more than that; I started my first blog in 2001, 9 years before I was diagnosed with cancer, and 7 years before I found out I was going to be a mom. Long before I felt the urgent need to create a record of myself for my daughter, I was compelled to leave my mark on the world through my writing.  The urge to write began when I learned to read.

Despite the urge, I still go day after day without writing.  I compose entire essays and posts in my mind as I go about my day, while simultaneously washing the oatmeal from between my daughters toes (no, I don’t know how it got there), and weighing the pros and cons of returning to school in January (I just registered), but when I sit down at the computer my mind goes blank.  The prose sings in the amorphous space between my ears, but loses it’s voice as I try to pin it to paper.

I know I’m not alone in this; it’s a common issue for writers.

I also know the cure: Writing anyway, despite the fact that I know the words falling from my fingers are all wrong. Fear seeps in as my fingers hang over the keyboard, hesitating, afraid that what comes out will never measure up to what resides inside. So what if it doesn’t? “There is no such thing as great writing, only great re-writing.”  I know this on a logical level, but it takes practice to remind my fingers.  I need to stop being judgmental with myself, and I need to write despite the urge to hesitate.

“Writing makes a person very vulnerable. It opens you to public criticism, to ridicule, to rejection. But it also opens conversation and thought. It stirs minds, and touches hearts. It brings us into contact with our souls. So how can it possibly be a waste of time, an idle act, a mistake, a betrayal of truth? Who can possibly tell us not to do it?”

~Joan Chittister, Order of Saint Benedict

What about you?


Seattle writer, Judy Schwartz Haley, blogs about raising a toddler while battling cancer, finishing a degree, and fending off ninjas. Also, she needs more coffee.
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