Here in Ottawa, Canada where I live, it’s summer. The lilacs have faded, the peonies have all dropped, and now the roses and lilies are blooming in the gardens around town.
In the early evenings when I walk Mr. Darcy, the air smells like barbeque and I can hear music playing, the sound carrying across the parks from a downtown jazz festival.
Summer is Canada in all its glory and the last thing I want to do is be stuck inside finishing up a poetry manuscript and revising a novel. I’d much rather be lounging outside in the heat on a hazy afternoon, cool drink in one hand and fat juicy paperback in the other.
But I am still writing.
This blog post was written at 7am, during a Writer’s Flow Studio community writing session.
(Shout out to the Friday 7am crew! Especially Mari who finished her book and sent it off to beta readers yesterday, and Lenore who had a publisher ask for her full manuscript after she joined a Twitter pitch event, and Jackie whose regular writing routine is an inspiration for us all.)
Did I want to get up at 6am so I could walk the dog and then join in to write? HECK NO. Emphatic NOPE.
But I am still writing.
Last weekend, I went away for a girls’ weekend to a local music festival on an island a few hours drive from here. We stayed at a house right on the water, a short walk away from where the musicians started playing at 10am in the morning.
Did I want to take time away from my friends and the fun to work on my poetry manuscript? HECK YES. This book is one poem away from being finished and I am determined to send it off to my editor in the coming week. So, an hour in the mornings before anything else was happening helped me get that much further along.
Because I am still writing.
When the poetry manuscript is done, I have a novel draft that needs some major revision work. This will be the kind of revision that gets done with an industrial-sized crane, a back-hoe and a crate of dynamite.
Am I tempted to put off my novel revision because it’s summer and I just want to be out and about enjoying the nice weather, especially after the past two years when our hot weather options were so much more limited? YES. But I won’t do that.
Because I am still writing.
And here’s why…
I know there’s a trick my mind plays on me, convincing me to put off my writing for another, “better” or more convenient time.
My mind tells me:
“A couple of extra months won’t hurt.”
“When summer’s over, you can hop right back into your novel and finish it then.”
“Colder weather is a better time for writing because you’ll want to be inside.”
I know this is a trick because I’ve learned over the years that these whispers aren’t true.
Here’s what’s really true…
Putting off writing for something else is a dangerous habit, I’ve learned. You put it off for the summer, only to lose the connection with your story and your characters.
You put off writing this month because you’re busy and you think that somehow – magically! – you won’t be busy next month, or the month after.
You convince yourself that you have to choose between enjoying your life and writing, between spending time with loved ones and writing, between getting “stuff” done and writing.
And hey: on that last point, ever notice how when you get all your stuff done, there’s still more stuff to do? Stuff never ends. If you’re a woman with responsibilities and loved ones, stuff just keeps coming for you.
If you use your “stuff” as a reason to put off writing, you may very well die with your stories still in you.
And the idea of that – of millions of women dying with their stories still in them because they were waiting for a better time to write, a time when they had less other “stuff” to do – makes me very, very sad.
But still, my mind will always tell me there’s going to be a better, easier, more focused and more convenient time to write sometime down the road, in the blissful, magical, future.
As though no one ever got up early to write on a holiday weekend while the house was quiet, before all the fun began. As though it’s impossible to sneak 30 minutes out of 24 hours, or 2 hours out of the 168 hours in a week.
I know my mind tells me this because deep down, I’m afraid that the books won’t be any good.
A part of my mind is afraid that I’ll have wasted my time writing these books, that the writing will suck and I won’t be able to get them published and no one will read them, or anyone who does read them will hate them. My mind alerts me to these nasty bits of “news” every damn day, whenever I so much as think about writing.
Of course it feels like it would be easier to write later, because who wouldn’t want to avoid the feelings generated by these icky thoughts?
It’s my brain’s job to keep me safe and it does that by generating thoughts that would lead me to avoid anything I might be even the tiniest bit afraid of…
Such as my potential failure as a writer.
And when I listen to my brain and put off the writing until another, better, time, I train my brain to give into these negative thoughts and it becomes easier to avoid the next writing session, and the next one. One week of not writing becomes two, which becomes a month…and then I can’t remember my story all that well, which makes me feel even more fearful (if it was a good story, wouldn’t I remember the details??) and cue more avoidance.
After summer comes fall, and we have the crisp nights and warm days perfect for hiking. The leaves turn colour here so the forest looks like you’re viewing it through a kaleidoscope – I know I’ll want to be outside in the fall.
And then there’s all my “stuff” which always seems to multiply in the fall, as everyone is back from their vacations and expecting things from me again. I have some work travel on the calendar. Then Thanksgiving, then Christmas.
If I wasn’t wise to the ways of my mind, I could easily put off finishing my book for months and months… and eventually watch 2022 crawl to a close, not a single step closer to achieving the creative goals I’ve set for myself.
I’m not okay putting my goals and dreams off for another, better, more convenient time in the magical future when I won’t have any responsibilities and won’t want to do anything else but write.
That’s not how life works. The only time we have guaranteed to us is now.
So write NOW.
Show up to your desk NOW.
Finish the book NOW.
There’s no better time to write.