Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Opening a Vein--Or Not

by Annette Lyon

You've probably heard the quote from Walter "Red" Smith:

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."

Every writer, from beginning to seasoned, can relate (ever hit your head against a wall and just KNOW there's no way you'll finish your book? And if you ever do, it'll stink? Yeah.).

The writing life has more to drag you down than that dreaded wall: writer's block, rejections and everything (a universe more!) in between.

But what if you stopped writing? Would you be happier?

If you're ever to the point where you're stuck on the "open up a vein" and "this is painful" mentality, I recommend listening to A Conversation on the Writing Life with Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron.

The two-hour program covers a variety of topics, but even the first five minutes is enough to lift you up and remember why you started this writing gig to begin with.

Let me remind you: Writing is fun. It brings you joy. It makes you more YOU.

At least, that's what it does for me. Natalie Goldberg says that if she hasn't written that day and you run into her in the afternoon, you can tell. She's less grounded, less herself.

I'm the same way. If I take too much time off from writing, the house is messier. I have less time for the kids and my husband. My entire life seems to implode, and I can't ever catch up.

But when I take a little time here and there for writing, I'm more me. Everything falls into place. Paradoxically, I have more time for all my other demands. I'm a happier person. I'm a better wife. I'm a better mom.

Granted, now that I have deadlines and a publishing schedule, that "little time" can get out of balance and take up a LOT of time. I have to be careful not to let my life get too crowded by writing that other areas suffer.

But at the same time, even when I bemoan the latest critique I got or my low numbers or whatever the gripe of the day might be, I have to remind myself that I'm a writer.

It's who I am.

More importantly, it makes me more me. And that's something to celebrate.

Here's the dirty little secret with writing:

Most of the time, writing doesn't come from angst-ridden, drug-addicted artists starving in some attic in the winter cold. And most of the time there is absolutely no blood-letting involved.

Instead, writing is FUN. Shhhh. Don't tell.


Kimberly said...

Oh my yes. Yes yes yes. That's exactly how it is.

When Neil and I got married, I stopped writing. I don't know why, but for some reason I felt the need to give up my me-ness and be a housewife extraordinaire. I quickly discovered though that housework is not my forte, and I kind of just spiralled into a bleak headspace after that.

I started writing again after three years of misery and, what a shock, have found balance and joy in my life since.

Brilliantly put.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

What a wonderful post. Thanks for the reminder that it is supposed to be fun. If writing weren't fun, why do it?

Tamra Norton said...

I haven't always been a writer. Never knew I even had it in me. But when I finally discovered it, I feel like I discovered me.

Elaina said...

I absolutely, completely and utterly AGREE!!!!!

The Rays said...

OH I love this site.

MoJo said...

But what if you stopped writing? Would you be happier?

I did. I was.

For a while (5 years). I ended building another creative outlet which didn't quite hit the spot (like drinking water when you want pink lemonade).

Then I woke up one morning with this uncontrollable flash of inspiration and wrote and wrote and wrote.

I think of it more like a co-dependent relationship with my imaginary friends.

Shaunda Wenger said...

Love what you've written here, Annette.

This is a great site. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, LuAnn.