I can’t imagine winter without Christmas. This celebration of light at the darkest time of year coincides with the end of my busiest time at work. As Christmas approaches, a frenzy of activity reaches its peak as we prepare up until those last moments before Christmas morning.
I always take some time off after this craziness. My boss has flown to more temperate regions, deadlines have been met and now it’s time to exhale and enjoy time with my family. But where in all this is the time to write? It sits in my belly like a seed waiting to be watered, waiting to see light.
It takes steely effort to find time for extra-curricular activities at this time of year. But all these frenetic, extroverted activities satisfy part of my soul and leave, in me at least, a deep craving for silence, for solace, for selfishness. I look forward to the dark nights ahead with no planned activities, just the storms blowing outside. We’ve satisfied our bodies with too much to eat and perhaps too much to drink. Now I can sit and write undisturbed, not feeling as if I’m missing out, too dog-tired to care.
I can never do NaNoWriMo in November, just way too busy. Now January, that’s another matter. January to March, the only time it seems I can lay some serious tracks before the sunlight beckons and it’s time to start the garden all over again.
It’s hard to imagine spring as I sit here on the longest night of the year. And sometimes it’s hard to be a writer. Why do I get up at 5:30 in the morning when I could easily sleep until seven? Because there’s no way I have the energy to write at night. Like exercise and meditation, a strong routine of practice gets us through the tough times, when nothing comes easy. So I don’t question, I rise early, write in my notebook and dream of Saturdays with nowhere to go but to my writing space and thankful my children have all that new stuff to keep them busy.
Why do we write? I hear of friends discouraged because they can’t make a living at this, or life has overwhelmed them and they haven’t written for a number of years and wonder if they should again. There is even a Natalie Goldberg exercise: Write for five minutes straight on why you write. I’ve been doing that exercise for as long as I’ve been writing because, quite frankly, this whole thing is a bit of a crazy endeavour. Spending years writing a novel that your chances of seeing published are slim, having people read it is even slimmer, and then making a pittance from it. (Okay, we all know JK Rowling’s story, but it’s a bit of a one-in-a-million.)
So I asked myself this again at this dark time, Why do I write? If I didn’t write for a number of years, would I go back to it? If we look at any endeavour, we can ask ourselves why. Aren’t they all slightly pointless? Okay, some activities give us exercise, some are just plain fun, some help us to earn a better living, some strengthen our families. But writing doesn’t fit into any of these categories: It’s not improving my heart rate, it has fun moments but many years of work, chances of making a better living are slim to none, and it takes time away from family and friends.
So why do I do it? Because I love books, I love everything about them. I love hanging out with people who read and talk about books, I love hanging out with people who struggle for that perfect word. I go to workshops and spoken word festivals, belong to a book group. I love the literary life and what else is there to do but try and fit a path of my own through words. Knowing how to use words helps me communicate better in my daily life, helps me to clarify complex ideas and emotions and communicate them to others.
At the end of the day, writing has helped me be a better person, helped me to explore within my own mind and heart the journey of life. And along the way I’ve made some great friends, had some great times, and had the satisfaction from a job well-written.
For inspiration to keep that pen moving, visit http://www.copyblogger.com/just-write/
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