Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Professing My Intentions

 Last week, we were at the beach and I made it a priority to step away from the computer. I did well for most of the week and, for the most part, it wasn't even that challenging. 

But, by Thursday, I missed my mornings spent puttering on writing-related things. I'd worked hard the week before vacation to get a book proposal off my hard drive and into an editor's inbox (fingers crossed), so some recharging was definitely called for but, by the end of the week, after some time awayI found myself pondering a question that's been circling in my head all summer.

Is my writing a profession or something else?

I'm serious about writing, and about writing for publication, and I have been for nearly three decades. Prevailing wisdom says things like "write every day" and "treat it like a job" but lately, I've been wondering if that's really an approach that works for me.

Does taking my writing seriously mean I have to treat it like a job? More and more, I think it doesn't.

The pandemic left me drained of creativity. Writing felt like too much work and I began to wonder if I'd reached the end of the road. Then, last February, I started prizing creativity as much as productivity and this summer, I focused on things that would recharge my writing. Missing the writing conferences that had had this impact but not yet ready to do in-person sessions in hotel meeting rooms, I looked online for opportunities.

And they were wonderful. 

I found myself connecting with other writers and wanting to write again. By the middle of July, I looked at the notebook that had been blank a month earlier and it was more than halfway filled with notes from writing webinars and sessions, each tabbed so I could find what I was looking for. And, in more practical pursuits, I hit my personal deadline of finishing the book proposal I'd been working on for months, hitting send less than 24 hours before going on vacation.

blickpixel via Pixabay

Productivity looks like different things in different seasons. Sometimes, it looks like setting goals and checking off all the steps that lead in that direction. Other times, it looks like sitting at the computer and writing the latest chapter. 

But still other times, it looks less like output and more like input. Sitting on the patio on a lovely summer day and listening to a writing webinar. Staring into space. Reading a book. Doodling, journaling, reflecting.

Recharging and refilling.

One of the resounding themes of my book Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist's Guide to Sorting Your Stuff is that organizing is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. I'm not sure why it surprised me that the same is true of writing, or that it took hearing those words in a webinar presented by an esteemed magazine editor for the message to hit home.

Sometimes, we sit down and the words flow. More often, creativity needs to be shaken loose, eased into, or even snuck up on when the muse isn't looking.

While there's certainly something to be said for treating writing as a profession, it's becoming clear to me that I need to treat it more as an avocation. Yes, I'm serious about it. Yes, I feel drawn to it, and yes I want to succeed at it. But, to do it well, I can't consider it a 9 to 5 job because not only does that suck all the joy out of it, but it assumes that good ideas and energy show up on a schedule.

They do not.

If I want to achieve my writing goals, it's important for me to make sure that writing is a habit. The precise manifestation of that habit, however, is going to vary. Ironically, it's only by accepting that fact that I have any hope of making the progress I dream of.

Now that I'm back home, various tasks are tugging at me, pulling me in multiple directions. And, while it's true that those tasks are a distraction, they are sometimes an unexpected inspiration as well.

Writers need material. Much of it comes from within us, but those sparks of creativity are fanned into a flame by a life spent away from the computer. As in so many other things, balance is key.

So today, I hereby renounce my classification of writing as my profession. It's primarily a semantic exercise, as I will still refer to myself as a writer and will still take my writing seriously and continue to aim for goals that will cement my status as a professional writer. But removing the "profession" label frees me to explore my writing in new ways, just as I would explore any other activity I enjoy.

Maybe I should go on vacation more often.

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