creativity

Origin story

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As I write this it’s May the Fourth, an adopted Star Wars celebration day (as in, “may the ‘fourth’ be with you…”), just a few days after the death of Peter Mayhew, who played the beloved Chewbacca. My favorite TV station, Comet, was playing a clear Star Wars knockoff, the 1978 Japanese film Message from Space.

And just a couple of days ago, I interviewed a young woman, who, through a flight scholarship program, got to fly a private plane with the original Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford. I was trying to play it cool, but it was hard to hear her answers over the sound of my twelve-year-old self screaming at me from across time. I’m only one of millions of people who were hit with a bit of The Force growing up, and as a writer, its influence and impact on the shape of my imagination are undeniable.

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The original Star Wars film came out when I had just turned 7 years old. The truth is I wasn’t interested, or I was too busy with my Barbies to notice. I didn’t see it until a few years later, as I recall, when the library put on a showing of Star Wars in anticipation of The Empire Strikes Back. Then I was totally in orbit, so to speak.

The Empire Strikes Back expanded my understanding of storytelling. It was the first film I remember where I felt truly shocked by the twists and the pain inflicted upon a main character: Luke got his hand cut off! By his father! Who he didn’t know about until just now! It was also the first film I recall that didn’t have a completely happy resolution—what? They can leave us hanging like this? Where is Han??

While my young pre-teen/early-teen years I was mainly interested in Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, the presence and influence of Princess Leia was undoubtedly the most impactful. My mother likes to tell a story about when I was four years old and had said something about becoming a nurse. ‘You could be a doctor,’ my encouraging mother said. I apparently snorted derisively and said, to her horror, ‘Girls can’t be doctors!’

Clearly, such a notion didn’t come from my mother, and demonstrated how a misogynistic society had already wheedled itself into the unsuspecting brain of a toddler. To that point had witnessed no females or female characters in roles of authority. Princess Leia began to turn that around. Soon afterward Sigourney Weaver sent a scary Alien flying out of an airlock, all by herself, though I didn’t watch that one until much later.

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Also much later, I learned the screenplay for Empire Strikes Back was co-written by Leigh Brackett, a longtime novelist and screenwriter who died shortly after turning in a first draft of the screenplay. Early on in her career she was called in to work with William Faulkner on the film The Big Sleep by director Howard Hawks, who assumed she was a man. Brackett also wrote, among many things, the acclaimed post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel The Long Tomorrow. I found other ‘hidden’ writers, Andre Norton among them, and began to question why science fiction—a genre launched by Mary Shelley—was a ‘male’ domain.

The Star Wars franchise, like for so many others, also offered me heroes when I needed them. Around the time of Empire Strikes Back we moved to a rural town that seemed to have a different mindset and a different vibe. The kids were different. We moved in the middle of the school year, and I was something different to them, an easy target for bullies. I retreated into my imagination, creating my own internal fan fiction, putting myself in the Star Wars universe as Luke’s Jedi sister (yes, before I knew he actually had one!). Later I began writing my own stories, an oddball fantasy series casting my enemies as the antagonists.

I dove into other books—my mother’s Trixie Belden mystery series, the off-the-wall Hitchhiker’s Guide books—and I set the foundation for an inner world that has become a strange, delightful and gothic bit of architecture with lots of weird staircases. That’s part of my creative origin story. What’s yours?

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Praise/criticism

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We’re in Isla Holbox, Mexico right now with new groups of writers who are exploring, creating, discovering and encountering. Each of our retreats includes a series of prompts, often in question form, designed to get our minds going, to dig deeper and to tap into that river of authenticity that takes us to an open place. We try to write in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way, in a limited period of time. to eliminate the inner editor and just get some words down on paper. In Tuscany 2016, one of the presented questions was ‘What’s my story of praise and criticism?’ Below is my response.

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It’s the thing that goes on, the thing I can’t control in other people’s heads and barely in my own, the one that tells me, Good Lord, Woman, haven’t you learned how to pack a suitcase yet? The wonderment at somehow convincing myself that squeezing all of the air out of a space would make it easier to carry, when, in fact, it’s like that thing they say about the Earth, how if you squeezed all of the air out of everything then the planet would be the size of a soccer ball but still weigh the same. And sometimes that’s what I carry. But these things are no longer the driver, but simply the screaming kids in the back seat. I long to be elegant, to never clatter my silverware or trip over my own feet, and if there are lessons to be learned from these distractions, I don’t know, but that’s all they are, distractions. Because age is good for something, and that’s knowing that most things are silly and that there are no somedays. That all you really have is to be here now, and some years are more prone to remind you that it’s time to use the good china and the pretty linen and to wear that dress. You learn that you can’t avoid the dark, and in fact, it’s long past time to seek it out. You learn that sometimes pain is least painful when you crawl inside it, become it, to find the smallest origin of it and expand inside of it until it bursts. To look under the bed and say, hello, monster, come out and play. You begin to see the beauty in the whole, to understand that painters seek the right kind of light not for the light itself but for the play of light and dark. You begin to dust off that heavy trunk in the corner that carries the carefully folded and preserved statements and lessons passed along for the sake of safety or good intention or not such good intention, the collection of proclamations, yellowed and frayed but very carefully kept, the ways you still convince yourself you’re not enough just as you are. You begin to unfold them and see them as silliness, too. Maybe you actually find something in there that can be spun into silk. You invite the shadow on the other side of the mirror to laugh with you, and maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t but you see it for what it is. You cry for the ones who won’t be convinced but then you let it go. You see the falseness and have no patience for it and maybe now that you’ve unfolded some parchment from the trunk and it’s not so heavy anymore, you start to let your impatience show a little more. You stop hiding your crazy. You start seeing through the veil, you start seeing more clearly what is real, what is life, what is love.

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Purple and green/by Barbara Heffernan

By Suhail Kapoor on  Unsplash

By Suhail Kapoor on Unsplash

At a young age, I learned I was not creative.

Rain poured from the sky, shrinking the tiny upstate New York cabin by the minute. 

My younger sister and I finished coloring butterflies.  The enticement of the myriad crayon colors had waned, and we now needed a judge.  My mom, focused on the baby in her arms, shooed us away, not wanting to judge. But we bugged her and bugged her.

She picked my younger sister’s coloring.  She told me purple and green don’t go together.

But what I heard is, “You are not an artist.  That is not your role in our family.”

I went on to excel in the exciting, crazy-making world of Wall Street in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s.  The highs of Wall Street compensated for a truly miserable lifestyle until I could stand it no longer.  In desperation, I walked into a self-help career group that happened to be doing a Vision exercise: free-write, in the present tense, what you truly desire.

What sprung from my pen was a vision of myself sitting in a window seat in a country home studying Jung and Freud.  It seemed crazy. I was embarrassed to read it aloud, which we were then asked to do.  Yet this group of strangers did not think it bizarre that a successful Wall Street executive would have such a vision. 

Within a few years, I had quit Wall Street, moved to a cozy home in Connecticut and gone back to school to be a psychotherapist.  It was the first experience I had of consciously creating my own life.

We all create every day.  We create the life we are living. Yes, there are constraints, of course.  The same as an artist who works within the constraints of canvas and oil paints, we all have to deal with the realities of our environment.  But within that, we have enormous room to design and build our lives. And one constraint we do not have to honor is the role prescribed to us by others.

At mid-life, I learned I am very creative.

And I continue to evolve and change.

I am creating online meditation courses to complement my psychotherapy practice, hoping to help greater numbers of people while increasing my geographic flexibility. 

I am creating time to write, as the time will not fall from the sky if I do not actively envision it.

Knowing I can’t evolve in a vacuum, I have consciously accessed communities that will support my transitions.  Last year, this included online classes to bolster my craft and the wonderful WOW retreat in Morocco to bolster my soul.  I walked away from the retreat believing in my identity as a writer, feeling enriched in ways I could not have imagined. 

 I am adding writer, poet and mindfulness teacher to my conscious identity.  Some may say these can’t all go together, or be added to psychotherapist.  Yet, we have so many roles.  I am also a spouse, a mother, a daughter of aging parents, a sister, a friend.  Who gets to decide which roles, and in what proportions? 

At this stage of my life, I do.

 __________________

I invite you to pick up your pen, set your timer for 10 minutes, breathe deeply and manifest the world you truly desire. Write as if that vision is already true. Use “I am” rather than “I will be.”  Let go of inhibitions.  If there are details you are unsure of, leave them for the universe to fill in.  Include the feelings you would like to have at this future date:  “I wake feeling peaceful and grounded…I am living the life of my dreams.”

The more spontaneously you write this, the better.

Now, read it to someone. 

 *

Barbara Heffernan is a psychotherapist and writer. She is the founder of Mindful Psychotherapy, a private practice in Norwalk, CT, specializing in trauma and anxiety.  Barbara has been a feminist since the age of five, and a Buddhist since the age of 31.  She has studied meditation in Tibetan Buddhist, Zen Buddhist, Hindu, and Shamanic traditions. She offers mindfulness instruction and is developing a series of classes titled Awaken Joy. Barbara has a BA from Yale University, an MBA from Columbia University and an MSW from Southern Connecticut State University.  She has three children, four stepchildren, a husband, an English sheepdog and a rotund orange cat. Barbara’s website is www.mindfulpsychotherapyllc.com

By Andrew Ridley on  Unsplash

By Andrew Ridley on Unsplash

Why cats are natural writing companions

A six-toed Hemingcat.

A six-toed Hemingcat.

Molly, my first writing companion.

Molly, my first writing companion.

For the past 22 years, I’ve had kitty friends keeping me company while I write. My first kitty Molly took up residence on an ottoman next to my desk while I painstakingly constructed my first novel, now my book-in-a-drawer, and since then, there’s always been a feline companion around to keep me on track.

Whenever I travel, I look for them, too, and they always seem to be looking back. Travel and creativity and cats have become a sort of natural trinity for me; whenever I’m out of my element these four-footed magical mascots seem to check in to see how things are going. They offer a sort of continuity and familiarity between solid ground and the ether of creativity.

Occhi Verde.

Occhi Verde.

In Tuscany where we stay for our retreat, my feline friend is Occhi Verdi—Green Eyes. The first year, in our writing circle near the end of the retreat, he joined us and settled into my arms, a farm cat but also an agritourismo cat; he knew how to welcome guests. The second year, we arrived and he marched up to me as if to say you have been gone an awfully long time. The following year, he greeted me during a breakfast sunrise, waiting not-quite-patiently for me to share my yogurt bowl.

 A few years ago a friend and I decided to take a winter trip to Key West. We went, marginally interested in Hemingway but more so in the six-toed cats, supposed descendants of his original companions.

We were entranced by the kitties, often named after famous people, that occupied the house and the grounds. We stood at the graves of Kim Novak and Willard Scott. We followed one confident feline who seemed to take over the tour. We explored the grounds. We said hello to cats perched on fence posts and lolling in the garden. They seemed bored with tourists but mostly tolerated our affection, except for the seven-toed Greta Garbo, who really did want to be alone.

Me with Greta Garbo, before she got reclusive.

Me with Greta Garbo, before she got reclusive.

The proper term for cat with more than the usual number of toes is polydactyl.

My cousin, a victim of spellchecker, once sent out a message that informed the family we got a new cat and she is a pterodactyl.

Hemingway isn’t alone. Lots of writers have shared their writing space with cats, and some like William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Joyce Carol Oates, and Nobel winner Doris Lessing have written books about them. For me, a cat’s special (and often weird) behavior provides metaphors for the creative process:

1.     Cats are like ideas. You can’t force them to come to you. When they do come, they’ve chosen you for a reason, and it’s best to pay attention. Nurture the relationship.

2.     Cats would rather sit. Writers sit. Writing is a solitary activity and sometimes we write for a long time and forget until we emerge from our bat caves and wonder where everybody went. Now you’re not alone, and you’ve got the best kind of company: One who gets you, and one who’s quiet.

Hazel.

Hazel.

3.     Cats are creatures of routine. A cat you live with will learn when you should be working. If you’re not where you’re supposed to be, he or she will often stare expectantly and incessantly or resort to meowing and nudging. My Maine Coon kitty Hazel was insistent that I sit where I was supposed to when I was supposed to. Writers need that: A reminder to sit down and focus.

4.     Cats also remind you when it’s time to take a break. There’s food, you know, and you do have to eat.

5.     Cats go directly to the source of pain. On a particularly painful day when a relationship ended, my sweet brown tabby/Siamese mix Molly curled up on my chest, finding the exact place where I felt the physical pain of emotional separation. As writers, sometimes we need to follow cats directly to the wound.

Rocket.

Rocket.

6.     Sometimes they know where the story is going before we do. Perhaps you’ve read about Oscar, the cat who could predict the deaths of hospice patients and sit with them in their final hours. This cat had an extraordinary sense. So do our characters. Let them tell the story and lead you to what’s happens next.

7.     They operate on instinct. My newly adopted 14-year-old lynx-point Siamese cat, Rocket, a darling who likes to lounge in the sun and drape himself on warm laps, nonetheless is an efficient mouser. There’s no moment of hesitation or thought – it just happens, and you find yourself with an unexpected and unsettling gift waiting for you. Writing can do that, too, offering up twists you really didn’t see coming.

Rocket, hunkering down.

Rocket, hunkering down.

8.     Sometimes they turn and scratch the shit out of you. The best characters can be those who don’t do what you expect them to do. Predictability is boring. Also, we each have those hair-trigger pain bodies that set us off – what are your narrator’s raw nerves? What is the moment, person or action that gets your character’s goat?

9.     Sometimes they tell you to just hunker down for now. The aforementioned Rocket prefers to curl up under a blanket. Sometimes the writing process can make us feel that way, and sometimes it’s okay just to stay in bed and regroup.

10. Cats are naturally curious, and so are writers. Wandering is good for our souls. Come wander with us in Mexico, Maine, Tuscany or Costa Rica. There’s room for you, and maybe you’ll even meet a friendly feline guide on your journey.

Marrakech cats.

Marrakech cats.

It's cold outside... heat up your writing in Mexico

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You’ve made your resolutions. Among them: Spend more time on your writing, your health, yourself. Maybe you have an idea about getting out of the winter cold and kickstarting your creativity in 2019. That’s why you’re here. Join us for five days on Isla Holbox, Mexico in March, and renew your focus on your work (or start writing for the first time… no experience necessary). We’ll do yoga in the mornings, and we’ll eat good food. We’ll give you lots of time to yourself. Sit in the sun, listen to the waves, explore the island and maybe even write something really cool.

We offer prompted writing sessions and guided feedback.  You’ll become a part of a community where you can explore the story you need to tell, whether you’ve been writing for a long time or are just starting to think that maybe you’d like to write. Read more and choose your week here.

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How Maine calls to artists/by Nancy Coleman

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What is it about Maine that calls to artists? What is it about Maine that stirs the Muse to speak?

I wonder if it’s the fog that wraps around us on an otherwise glorious summer day, that shuts gently the doors to perception of what is around us, that opens as quietly those internal shuttered gates?

“May I be as the fog,” became the opening line to a song that came to me as I sat on a rock on Mt. Desert Island on a June day years ago. I had been planning a hike, a paddle in the campground kayak around Somes Sound, a day of brilliant sunshine and striking contrasts in the deep blue of Maine’s Atlantic waters and the deeper greens of the pointed firs. A day, I had thought, that would inspire exhilaration, make me want to climb high and dive deep, make me breathe fully of her beauty. It could have been that kind of day. Maine summers are like that, breathlessly and breathfully inspiring.

But it would be a softer kind of day that greeted me when I stirred under the down coverlet in the six-person tent I was managing to fill quite well all by myself. Other than the cries of young gulls who swooped on the tide flats below me, a veil of quiet had fallen in the night. Where I had hoped for revelation, Mystery arrived in her stead. Brilliant blue and forest green had given way to the softest of greys. Distant views moved in close, disguising themselves as forest gnomes and unnamed emotions, the sadder kind, the kind that almost but not quite remembers something it once loved, the kind that longs for something it might never have. And around it all, stillness. Stay here, it said, stay hereThis could be the most beautiful day.

And really, it was. On the wings of the gulls and the tenderness of those grey clouds resting on the earth and the sea came a song:

 May I be as the fog, drifting in the bay

May I be as a leaf, graceful as it lays,

Grow as tender, as a flower, even more than I would dare,

May I come to be a dancer on a wing and a prayer.

I think this is a writer’s prayer as well, isn’t it? That we’ll come to the page with openness and readiness, without expectation but with every hope that we’ll be invited to dance? And although I would not ever want to give up one sparkling minute of that other kind of Maine summer day, the kind whose dazzle we cannot drink deeply enough, I’m always grateful now for the Muse of fog that turns us inward, retreating from our senses toward those inner mysteries, the ones that invite us to Stay. Stay here.

 ***

Join us on the Coast of Maine, June 22-28, 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

The why and why not

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There’s a reason you searched “writing retreats” or clicked on something that led you here. Something that said Italy or Morocco or Mexico or Maine and yoga and wine and yes, okay, writing. Maybe it’s a bit of escapism — you’re sitting in your cubicle or at your kitchen table, wondering trying not to think of the dozens of “to do” list items you have that day and that evening and tomorrow and the day after that. Maybe the idea of scribbling in a journal overlooking the fields of Tuscan grapevines sounds like a great idea for a daydream. Maybe it’s crossed your mind that you’d love to be a writer but it’s too hard or it takes too much time or someone else must be way better than you. Maybe you don’t speak the language of whatever country you’re dreaming about and couldn’t imagine trying to navigate such a sea change.

Maybe it’s exactly what you need.

Something happens on our retreats. Not to everyone and not every time but frequently enough that we know we have something special going on. We’ve conjured the right combination of distance, time and beauty, and we call to the people who are ready to take a big step of faith into possibility, of believing that their light and passion exist somewhere inside even if they can’t quite feel it right then. We become each other’s magic.

We wanted this to be a different kind of retreat — there are places that offer in-depth critiques and there is a place for that. But we just want you to write, and to write without the pressure of it being “good.” We offer encouragement, positivity, and the cameraderie of creation. It can be a beginning point for a new piece of writing, a new direction for a current project, or just that — a beginning point, period. We write, yes, but we take the time to just be. Usually with yoga and probably wine and definitely good food and sometimes horses and other fun stuff.

We have space for you in Mexico, Maine, and oh, yes, we can still make room for you in Morocco. Come unlock your magic with us.

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Camp Cushy

Camp Cushy by Watershed 2017 by Bart Vermeulen

Camp Cushy by Watershed 2017 by Bart Vermeulen

You just never know what’s going to conjure from seemingly small things, do you.

Some years ago—okay, around 25 or so to be truthful, I met a young woman, a friend of my daughter’s, a young wild child that while I was very taken with her independent spirit, I did not want my daughter to hang with her unsupervised.

You get what I’m saying here.

I got to know her better over the next few years, came to understand more about how she came to be such a whirling dervish of a girl, and I even got to be part of encouraging her to go to college, to Goddard College to be specific, a school I had wanted to go to back when I was a whirling dervish about to graduate from high school.

We stayed in touch, more some times than others. She moved to Europe, finally settling in The Netherlands. I stayed here in Maine. I wrote her that I was finally going to Goddard myself for an MFA. She started an organization, Watershed, in Eindhoven to promote literature in all its forms. I started a company, Wide Open Writing, in the U.S. to nurture creative expression through writing, yoga and travel.

She had a child. I had a motorcycle accident.

She wrote me to say how awful and to ask if, when I recovered would I be interested in coming to Eindhoven to teach in her Watershed summer workshop, Camp Cushy. I could not imagine recovering, really, but I said yes as much out of hope and habit as anything.

Juliet and I are now in our second year of Camp Cushy. I don’t believe that either of us could have imagined this and I continue to marvel at the mysterious and circuitous routes by which we came here. This podcast is part of a Watershed project called Radio Slik.

I still don’t know where all this goes. I don’t know why I didn’t die in my accident anymore than I know why she wasn’t destroyed in the years when her life was a fucking nightmare.  I just know that now we work together bringing Camp Cushy forward, both getting to watch the unfolding.

Stay tuned, Dulcie. Stay tuned, Juliet, the conjurer says. There’s more to come.  

Camp Cushy by Watershed 2017 by Bart Vermeulen

Camp Cushy by Watershed 2017 by Bart Vermeulen

Interstitium: Looking into the space between

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Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Interstitium.

Who?

Interstitium.

I don’t know Interstitium.  Go away.

*

Knock knock.

I said go away.

I can’t go away. I’ve been discovered.

Well, I guess you’ll have to come on in and justify yourself then.

*

The last day of our writing retreat on Isla Holbox was dedicated to the fifth of the Five Japanese Elements -  Sora or Void. We’d written with Water or Mizu, Earth or Suchi, Wind or Kaze, and Fire or Hi.  We’d written of love and loss and dreams and bodies.  We’d shared stories of death and love gone right and wrong. Through prose and poetry, memoir and fiction and essay, we explored what it meant to be alive and to be given time and space to write about it.

And then we came to Void, to Soru, to what could now scientifically be called Interstitium – the space between. I could have written all day, maybe all weekend and still I suspect I would have felt much like I do now, like I’m just getting started and I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t know how to get there.

When I am at my best, there is nothing that turns me on more than setting off into the mystery. I love to wake up into a day that belongs to me knowing there’s no telling what’s going to happen. I trust myself to accept with gratitude the gifts that I am about to receive.

But when I am off kilter, when I am hungry angry lonely tired or any of the other array of uncomfortable options, the Void can be a scary place to set off into. I think I am not alone in this.

We came to the end of our week together and faced the Void. We all recognized that it is a place you have to go by yourself and that as humans (and maybe even more so as writers) we float in the midst of nothingness and search for meaning, for truth, we search for the something in the nothing. And then we put words to it. And we share that with trusted others. The experience is both humbling and exhilarating, at least for me.

I came home from Isla Holbox to the news that scientists have identified Interstitium as a new organ in the human body, an organ that bears the qualities of Void, the space between.  I’m interested to see what we will do with this as humans. 

Me and the other writers from Isla Holbox already got a jump on it.

Redefining “Writing,” and doing it every day/ by Nate Chang

I’ve heard a lot of writers over the years thumping the “write every day” bible. While I applaud their dedication and zeal in the service of our craft, I have a few issues with the daily writing philosophy. I tried writing every day last year. I got about six months in before I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I’d cranked out two rather expansive novels and got halfway through a third before the muse in my head started throwing empty vodka bottles at me and shouting at me to knock it off and let her rest for a little while. While your muse may be a bit more taciturn than mine, I have met few other writers who were willing or able to write 180,000 words in six months. Why? Because we burn out. Because the human brain can only sustain a good creative bender for so long before we either start cranking out garbage, give up, or something much worse happens.

Does this mean you can’t or shouldn’t write every day? Of course not. I only suggest that we reconsider what “writing” means to us.

Writing is Rewriting

Any editor, good friend, beta reader, or killjoy will tell you that while the first job of every writer is to write, the second job of said writer is to rewrite. Unless you just plan on letting your stories collect dust – a terrible waste – you’ll need to do some rewriting/editing/revising/whatever you want to call it. As I tell my students, “nobody just shits literary gold.” Not you, not me, not J.K. Rowling, nobody. Nobody gets it right the first time, and so it falls to us to go back through our work and make it better. Utilizing the axiom that writing is rewriting, our new definition of writing must include rewriting.

Writing is Brainstorming

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Sometimes we need to stop and consider what it is we’re doing. It’s all too easy to get lost in a moment that we love, blinded to the fact that we may be writing something that nobody but us will ever want to read. Maybe our writing has gotten stale, we’ve hit a wall, or one of a million other things has come up and rendered us creatively inert. In such times, it’s helpful to stop working on the main project and do a bit of brainstorming. Use a new document, that leather journal you bought but haven’t written anything in yet, or that scrap paper you’ve got here and there. Take a step back and let your mind work out the kinks in the big project, then go back to it when you’re ready. Fair warning: this may take a while.

Writing is Self-care

As writers, we often let our creative minds get the better of us, and we forget to take care of ourselves. We neglect going to the gym so we can get that extra 500 words in, or we “forget” to eat right because we can keep writing a little longer if we order a pizza so we don’t have to stop to cook or clean. We bail on family and friends because we procrastinated all day, and it’s only at 11pm that we start the day’s writing. It’s tantalizingly easy to shirk our needs and responsibilities for the high that fulfilling your creative needs brings. What’s worse, we may be working long and/or arduous hours in a soul-sucking job we hate that has left us naught but husks of human beings. Trying to write in such a husk-like state is, in my experience, ill-advised, as what comes out of my brain is embittered and anything but useful. Of course, all things in moderation. If “self-care” involves a pint of ice cream and binge watching Stranger Things again, it might be time to dial it back.

Writing is Publishing

I remember a scene in the film Amadeus where Mozart’s father Leopold asks him if he’s taken on any pupils.

MOZART: I don’t want pupils. I have to have time for composition.

LEOPOLD: Composition doesn’t pay.

While we’re not all teachers, the idea remains the same: if all we do is crank out story after story, how is anyone going to read them? Eventually, we’ll have to dedicate some time to writing query letters, working with agents and publishers, and the rest of what’s involved in sending our stories out into the world. Working toward getting your work to our readers is absolutely worthy of being called “writing.”

“Write” every day

Armed with our new definition of writing, we’ve got a much more manageable life ahead of us. While compositional “writing” is the cornerstone of what we do, living as a writer and “writing” must include something more. While I cannot advise writing every day, I heartily endorse writing every day.

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Nate Chang is a genderqueer author and professor of English, currently living south of Seattle, Washington. Their work has appeared in The Pitkin Review Literary Magazine, Paper Tape, and Soul’s Road: a Fiction Collection (although you might not know it was them.) They enjoy musty old books, weird comics nobody has ever heard of, and model tanks.