Why do we write? I’ve been asking myself that lately because it’s been tough to find the motivation to do it. It’s not that I don’t want to, but life just gets in the way, you know? You’ve got work and this or that family function, not to mention a friend from out of town who you haven’t seen in ages (or for that matter, friends who live in town and you also haven’t seen in ages), or that workout routine you’ve been meaning to start. Plus there’s learning to cook (though you do make killer grilled cheese sandwiches), learning a new language, going to concerts, museums, a movie, or what have you, browsing social media, reading that new book, and lastly, the bane of everyone’s existence: chores. Where’s a girl to find the time to write in all that?!
I could give you hints and tips and tricks about how to manage your time by creating a bullet journal or give you a link to music playlists that will get you in that writing mood, or suggest this or that class to teach you what all aspiring authors need to know, but I won’t do any of that. Because let’s just call these tactics for what they are (say it with me): procrastination.
As much as we’d like to think these methods help (and yes, I get sucked into this stuff, too), what we really need to do is just sit our butts down and write. Make time for it in your day. If you say you’re going to write for an hour every morning or evening or whenever, then actually do it. Don’t treat it as an “if I feel like it” situation that can be filled with something more “pressing”—like doing chores or browsing social media (Guilty!). I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but when you set aside that hour (or 20 minutes, whatever) for writing, protect that time. Don’t let yourself feel guilty because you’re not doing something more “productive” or because someone tells you sitting down to write isn’t “real work”. Writing is work. Writing is productive. Writing is your dream. Isn’t it?
If it’s not your dream, then you don’t have to read any further. Stop feeling guilty about not writing and go live your life guilt-free. Forget about that idea for a novel you’ve been kicking around in your head. Throw away those partially-finished short stories and poems. Who needs clutter anyway? Travel the world! Raise a family! Become a doctor or lawyer or astronaut or a pirate! Save the world from aliens!
Are you sure it’s not your dream?
I’m going to mention a quote I recently came across. It goes like this:
Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “It’s not a priority” and see how that feels. “I’m not working on my growth because it’s not a priority.” If it doesn’t sit well, that’s the point. Time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending it, we can choose differently.”
It’s not specifically about writing, but I think it still applies. “I’m not working on my writing because it’s not a priority.” Doesn’t sit well? Yeah, for me either. So I’ve been working on making it my priority instead of just dabbling in it here and there. For me, that involved taking an online poetry class that was 10 weeks long. Let me tell you, writing a new poem every week while juggling the rest of my life was tough! But I did it. And I got 8 new poems out of it. (No, you’re not bad at math. We had to revise two of them.) And I found out that I really did have time in my busy schedule for writing after all.
Maybe you can’t afford to take a writing class right now, but don’t let that stop you. If you’ve been dreaming about writing since you were a kid, then do it. Find ways to make it a part of your daily routine because nobody else is going to do it for you. Ask yourself –why are you so determined to write even though you keep putting it off? WHY do you keep putting it off, really?
And don’t worry about your writing being horrible. Let me tell you, there are a lot less competent writers out there who are submitting—and getting published!—so don’t let your need for perfection stop you. Writing is a skill that you need practice to master and if you’re not practicing, then you won’t get better.
If you decide that writing’s not for you, that’s okay too. Don’t feel bad. Maybe there are other ways you can still have writing in your life that doesn’t involve actually writing yourself. Read a lot. Get involved in a writing program that mentors kids. WriteGirl is a good one in Los Angeles, or volunteer at your local after school program or library. Get involved in a literary magazine or newspaper (or start your own, like we did). Learn how to become a copy editor. There are so many possibilities.
But if writing is your thing, make a plan to sit down and write. Leave all your guilt and excuses at the door. Don’t worry about how many words you need to write or the laundry that needs to be done or what Marissa’s latest Instagram post is about. Just focus on the story you want to tell and nothing else. You can do it. I’m rooting for you.
Elena Lucia Perez is a storyteller who divides her time between writing, film, and theatre. She earned her BA in writing from the University of California, Riverside and is the managing editor of The Metaworker. Elena lives in Los Angeles where she spends her free time reading, craft-making, and photographing nature. Other things she likes are: fruit pies, NASA, dragons, Kandinsky, and puns.