The advice we’re given is “treat writing like a job.” In other words, show up, sit down and write. That was easy for me to do when I was writing the manuscript now gathering dust on my bookshelf. Three years ago, as I dived into research about World War II, the contributions of civilian women during wartime and Japanese internment camps, it was easy to set the alarm at five. I was on a mission to complete a full-length novel. Eighty-eight thousand words later the job was done.
I just don’t know if I’m on a mission any more.
I haven’t lost my love, only my drive. Or maybe it’s not my drive. Maybe it’s my vision – I can no longer see in my mind’s eye the writer I wanted to be in 2008. The writer who craved commercial success has disappeared.
An old friend said to me last night, “Of course you’re not writing – these days you’re too busy living.” And then a few hours later a new friend said, “Write as if no one is reading.” When I began to study the craft of writing that was my focus – writing for the potential reader with the conviction that one day the President of the United States would put a hardcover copy of my best seller in his summer vacation carry-on. And now? I think it’s time to begin writing for me – to color outside the lines a bit or maybe allow the flow of words to lead me down an unexpected path.
(Why does that make me feel uncomfortable? What would happen if I did that? What would I discover?)
With the counsel of those friends still sitting warmly in my heart I’m going to embark on a new writer’s path. No matter what I read in all the “how to write” books I am not going to treat writing like a job. The writing that I want to produce – the writing that nurtures or challenges or pulls at you – that writing is not a job.
And so the dozen half-written essays on my desktop, the few short stories I began but never finished and the unfinished novel languishing in an electronic file – they’re all going to wait a while longer. I’ve got to go live a little and then write about it as though no one is reading.