Thursday, July 21, 2005

Carpe Diem

Douglas Clegg wrote an interesting entry in his blog yesterday. You'll have to scroll down to read it because I can't find a way to link to that particular post. He talked about "seizing the day" in his writing and in life. It reminded me about some thoughts I've been having recently about that same subject.

When writers urge other writers to write every single day, taking no days off, I cringe. Life is for writing about, certainly. That's what writers do. But it's also to be lived. It's living life that gives a writer something to write about. Living life refills the creative well from which our stories come. That sounds obvious, but how many writers, who tend to be natural introverts, make themselves leave their desk and go out into the light? It's far too easy to say, "I'm working." But a workaholic soon burns out, the creative well drying up.

I've been living with my mom this past year, as many of you may know. During a part of that time we had absolutely no income. Unemployment and savings had run out. We had food stamps and that was it. Except for the Internet, we were almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. It was an interesting experience. I developed an even greater appreciation for friends and making the effort to keep an active social life going. I developed a greater appreciation for keeping in touch with my family, planning activities together. The simple things of life became more precious to me than before. It's a lesson I hope I never forget.

Those simple things are also enough to fuel your writing. You don't have to live an exciting life to have something to say. You just have to live an aware life. You have to pay attention. By paying attention when you're away from your desk, you see things to write about. You get ideas and make connections. For example, when I'm walking, I get a lot of answers to problems in my current manuscript. That's really interesting to me because I'm currently not actively working on it. Yet, today, I had two knotty issues solve themselves. One of my friends says that my "backbrain", as she calls it, is still working while I'm on my hiatus from writing the draft.

But you have to seize the day when you write, too. When you write, write the way you live life. Paying attention. Using what you gathered from life to make your stories sing. But also, seize the moment. Seize the opportunity to be at your desk and write. How many writers, particularly unpublished ones without contracts to spur them on, waste their writing time? How many play games, watch TV, procrastinate endlessly because it seems like there's always tomorrow? Or they run super busy lives and never stop to pay attention to those minutes they could use to put a word or sentence down on the page. I've been there, done that. Complained about not having time to write. But the fact is, pro writers I've talked with say they didn't have time to write, either. But they wanted their writing and their career more than they wanted other things. So they rearranged their lives to write. That's what they did. It's OK if you don't want to be a pro writer. It's OK if you want to write when you feel like writing. But if you want to seize the day and really live life to the fullest, then be honest with yourself about it. Seize the life you really want, whatever that life is. Arrange your life to write regularly, if writing's what you want. Arrange it to do whatever your passion is, if it's not writing.

For me, it is writing. I've been given a huge gift this summer. My husband's making enough money that if we don't go nuts with spending, I can afford to be an SAHW. I can afford to focus on the stories without that awful fear that we won't have the rent money or be able to buy food. When my hiatus is up, that's what I plan to do. I also plan to cook for friends. Sing in the choir. Live all of life to the fullest. Seize the day!!