Today, I Write.
It’s 10:30 am. I’ve been up for about an hour or so. I got out of bed, poured some coffee, took a little time to watch American Ninja Warrior, and now I’m sitting in the office with nothing to do all day but write. I cannot express how happy I am over this!
A Writer Writes, Always.
I took that line from Throw Mama from the Train when I was a kid and I internalized it. It informed my view of “writers” from the time I was about 10 years old until I started my undergrad work as an English major when I was 31. I never really considered myself “a writer,” because I didn’t write every day. I loved writing, and I knew I had a knack for it, but that little line – Billy Crystal’s voice saying, “A writer writes, always,” – kept me from identifying myself as a writer.
These days I have no qualms about calling myself a writer. I don’t even have any qualms about calling myself a professional writer. I am, after all, making most of my current income by way of typing words onto a screen and sending them to clients to publish.
Somewhere during my undergraduate work, I realized I was writing quite a bit. Of course, most of it was literary analysis, not creative writing, but I was definitely stretching my linguistic muscles. Then I started writing poetry to deal with personal issues. I wrote a lot of poems from around 2011 to 2013. You can read a few of them in the Poetry section of this site.
Of course, I’d written songs, poems, and stories throughout my life, but never attempted to publish any of them (except the songs). During my first year of teaching, though, I started a creative writing club for my students, and really got to have fun stretching my fiction muscles.
Then I Decided to be a Writer
Each week for our writer’s club meetings we would find some random prompt. We had a few mechanisms for this – including some card games and other tactile versions of the myriad online story generators one can find. Once we had a prompt, we would break up for a half hour, and come back with whatever we’d come up with in that amount of time.
It was great exercise, having to furiously develop a story in a half-hour from a random prompt. I was continuously stricken with the diversity of wonderful and creative ideas my students and faculty partner Brad Skiff came up with based on the same random prompt.
A couple of the stories I’ve published on this site have come from those sessions – namely “A Lion for June” and “Courage.” I found I really loved writing short fiction when given a prompt. My biggest problem prior to that point with writing fiction was coming up with the idea for the story out of nowhere. Nowadays I find that I am always thinking of stories, but back then, I hadn’t developed those creative muscles yet.
The Thrill of Writing
There are so many great things you can do as a writer. You can write a beautiful poem. Then you can write a mournful story, or a funny one. Or, you can write a poignant criticism of society. As with music, you can write stories that make people cry, laugh, or feel things they couldn’t otherwise feel.
As a writer, you report the truth of a thing. You reveal the truth of a situation by showing every side. You must raise the truth of a character from the ether of collective memory. You can recon every aspect of the truth of a relationship. The job of a writer is to record the truth of human life through the made-up lives of real people with made-up names.
It is an exorcism, writing. In yesterday’s analysis of “Maggie’s Farm,” I mentioned the line “I got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane.” Anyone who’s ever struggled with anxiety can understand that line. When my anxiety attacks me, I find that writing helps me to focus and relieve the pressure inside. I get the same relief from playing music. Both are meditative acts for me. Both take me to “the zone.” By the way, running is getting to be that way for me, too, which I couldn’t be happier about.
Getting Caught Up
I’m finally caught up with all of the freelance work on which I was behind. That means that today and tomorrow I plan on getting a bunch of posts put up. There may even be a new Dingo Roy story posted in the next day or two. I make no promises, but it’s possible. I am so excited to have this time to finally write everything I’ve wanted to write for the last two weeks!
Finally, if you love to write, but have a hard time finding time to do so, I encourage you to schedule a regular time for it. Steve Kamb, in his book Level Up Your Life, which I highly recommend for all nerds out there, says that if your excuse is “I don’t have time,” then you nee to change that sentence to “It’s not a priority.” You won’t ever make time for something that’s not a priority.
Since mid-March or so, I’ve been writing so much that I can’t remember the last time I picked up my X-Box controller to play a game. I barely watch any TV or movies anymore – and the only time I do so is when I’m simply too exhausted to think and write, or when it’s part of quality time with my friends. Writing has become a major priority for me, as has fitness, and my commitments to my band and my own music. Those things take up the majority of my time.
When the school year starts, and I start teaching again, I’ll have to scale some things back, and re-prioritize. Regardless of what things look like at that point, though, my principles regarding time management will be the same. I ask myself, at any given moment, am I doing something that is advancing me toward the achievement of my goals? Sometimes that means writing, and sometimes that means working out.
Often, I’m working on building the Brandonia brand with behind the scenes business stuff, and, when they come up, I’m applying for teaching jobs. Sometimes advancing my goals means resting. That’s why I only lift three times a week, so my muscles can repair themselves and come back even stronger.
The point is, no matter what I’m doing, you can usually bet it’s something I’ve planned on doing because it’s going to get me closer to where I want to go. If you want to be a runner, you need to run. Similarly, if you want to be a writer, you need to write – as often and as much as possible.
Thanks for your patience while I’ve been figuring this scheduling debacle of the last two weeks out. Stay tuned for Thought’s for Thursday – ON TIME – later today!