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When you’re not writing, what do you do?

Some are weekend writers who look forward to their days off and, in the case of many teachers, their summers to ply their writerly ways. Others move their desire to write higher up the priority list and commit to daily writing. Neither is wrong. Writing is a personal art. Writing is also an art that some come to love enough to do all the time. What most writers, especially those who write fiction–whether academic or commercial (popular)–cannot do is earn a living writing. So to the degree they prioritize writing in their life, they must accommodate.

Accommodation is not uncommon in any of the arts. Having facilitated Artist Way groups for nearly eight years and having met and worked with a wide variety of artists from painters to writers to musicians to those who simply want to free the creative force into their lives, most struggle to achieve any kind of balance in their lives and all confront the daily battle of having to earn a living in the midst of being creative. It ain’t easy, folks. The stresses of everyday life can stop an artist cold. Add to that the need of most to have a social life with friends and family and most creative types find themselves in the midst of three-ring circus trying to entertain everyone with their juggling skills and not always accomplishing their uppermost goals.

I think one of the hardest things to learn is that you can’t judge yourself against your fellow artists. Because I don’t write a short story each and every day like Ray Bradbury does–and admonishes to every budding writer he meets–I still can’t and shouldn’t fall into the trap of believing that I can’t write or that I will never be a successful writer. Is he wrong? Not hardly. Anyone that aspires to write and produce at the level Bradbury does should follow his advice. There are many reasons why writing each and every day is the measure all writers strive to meet. Not the least is the fact that the writer’s fragile connection to the work is best served by daily attendance. But does that mean you can’t be a writer unless you master the daily work ethic? No. There are plenty of successful writers who have found their way to their dreams, their desires, and their intentions by carving out a different path. The desire to write, to communicate, to tell tales is not equal in all writers. The pathway to the goal is not always the same. My journey is not your journey–nor should it be–anymore than the simple act of writing inherently promises publication.

Writers often lead lives of accommodation and compromise. Visions of the writing life lure many. For many the dream is really about the life of an author after publication. They dream of book signings, literary parties, and the accompanying glorious rush of excitement. The practical knowledge and the hard work necessary to get to that promised land is rarely considered. For those who do achieve their publishing dream, all too often they discover that the party life is rare and the excitement fleeting. They are confronted with the realities of publishing and learn publication is merely the beginning. Now they must delve into marketing and publicity and figure out why their friends can’t find their books in the local store and how come their royalty checks–six months to a year later–don’t meet expectations. Add to that the pressures of the next contract deadline in the midst of book signings, speaking engagements, and the publicity work needed to garner attention for a new book and you often find rather frazzled writers who are now trying to balance even more competing arenas.

Some writers don’t aspire to bestsellerdom and simply want to air their views, tell their tales, and play in a much smaller pond. Some are even satisfied with their work being read only by family and friends. Are they lesser writers? I don’t think so. They are different; they have different dreams and aspirations and are motivated by different goals. Even so, they run into unanticipated events and results.

All writers have to juggle to accomplish their goals. For extroverted types, the solitary work of a writer can be frustrating. For introverts, life’s intrusions can be frustrating when all they want to do is sit and write and be immersed in the worlds they create. Balance is required by both. Ways to achieve that balance are different for everyone. Some writers love to watch movies; others turn to music. Still others jog miles every day. What do you do when you’re not writing?

I like to go on walkabouts downtown in search of the perfect image. After hours and days of concentration that is purely verbal, the switch to a visual hunt effectively stops time and refills my creative well. The lure of architectural photography gets me off my duff and walking. I move from inactive to active. Instead of searching for the right word, I’m hunting for that one shot that captures my mood and feelings about the image. In doing so, I move quickly from a left brain activity to a right brain function. Suddenly I’m engaged in the real world and my inner landscape fades away. What ways do you refill your creative well?

For a look at some of my images, check out my fotolog.


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  • http://www.blogbusinessworld.blogspot.com Wayne Hurlbert

    This was a truly wonderful essay on the writer’s life and aspirations. It’s one of the reasons your blog is a must read for all writers.

  • http://www.blogbusinessworld.blogspot.com Wayne Hurlbert

    This was a truly wonderful essay on the writer’s life and aspirations. It’s one of the reasons your blog is a must read for all writers.

  • http://barbarawklaser.mysterynovelist.com Barbara

    I was a civil servant for 25 years, mostly as a technical writer and editor, later as a manager. I took early retirement (at an extreme cut in my retirement annuity) to have time again to write fiction.
    “What most writers, especially those who write fiction–whether academic or commercial (popular)–cannot do is earn a living writing.”
    No truer statement was ever made! And likely one of the greatest sources of frustration for most fiction writers, when we’re not caught up in the actual act of writing.
    Beautiful essay. Thank you.

  • http://barbarawklaser.mysterynovelist.com Barbara

    I was a civil servant for 25 years, mostly as a technical writer and editor, later as a manager. I took early retirement (at an extreme cut in my retirement annuity) to have time again to write fiction.
    “What most writers, especially those who write fiction–whether academic or commercial (popular)–cannot do is earn a living writing.”
    No truer statement was ever made! And likely one of the greatest sources of frustration for most fiction writers, when we’re not caught up in the actual act of writing.
    Beautiful essay. Thank you.

  • http://www.thewriterspath.com vikk

    Thanks, Wayne and Barbara, your comments are really appreciated.

  • http://www.thewriterspath.com vikk

    Thanks, Wayne and Barbara, your comments are really appreciated.