I have often been accused of being ‘too hard on myself’. I’m the first to admit that I like to set the bar high. I even set it so higher than it is possible to achieve – when it comes to art and fiction. In writing this blog my advice has often verged on aggressiveness in regard to my stance on what writers should do. In other words I tell them to write. No matter what just write. A few people have taken me to task for this. It’s true – not everyone has room in their life to take as much time out for writing as I do now, or enough time to get into the studio and paint, or sculpt, or whatever is they do, but that is because they have set other things as higher priorities.
When I was a single parent of a kid under the age of his majority I had to set a couple things as higher priorities than my writing or art. I had to make sure he had a roof over his head, food on the table, a good school nearby, and a pair of the right shoes to fit in with his peers. This often meant some sacrifices. Back when he was quite small I decided to become a painter. At times I was able to indulge myself, but when times got harder I had to cut back to the point that I didn’t have a studio to paint in. For me to do oil paintings meant that if I didn’t have a studio I didn’t tend to paint. I find landlords tend to keep your security deposit when you have ruined the walls and floor with paint and solvents (I’m a messy kind of painter). Oil paints and canvases are expensive. Their acquisition interfered with buying food and paying rent. Working freelance for a time meant that I found myself with less time as well. This was okay – because my priority had to be the young life I was responsible for. That didn’t take away my urge to create though. I found a way to do both.
I found myself on the computer a lot. This is when I began to write more earnestly. When I first started it was definitely only an outlet for my frustrated artist-self. Gradually, however, I found it was something that I could manage as a single parent and sole support of my difficult offspring. Collaborative writing, in particular, was suited because I could write in small chunks when time afforded, which was between work deadlines or when unmanageable demon-spawn offspring was finally restive (passed out or zoned in to his then obsession with Wrestlemania).
As I began to learn the craft of writing, I was beating myself up a lot over not painting. How could I call myself an artist if I didn’t do the one thing that qualified me as an artist, i.e. make art? I still wrestle with this problem since I have found that my inspiration for painting is either on or it is off. I don’t dabble. As a writer I have shown far more consistency. It fits in with my life style better. I can find room for it in my day. I can get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later. It’s true I haven’t written the novel that I planned so many years ago, but I have maintained a pretty decent writing schedule for years now. Now the child is grown and I can change my priorities back to the creative life so it’s even easier than before to justify the time, but that doesn’t mean other things don’t get in the way. I just have to remember to move them back out of my way again.
Setting the bar high is my way of keeping a fire in my belly and a goad at my back. I don’t beat myself up for not achieving my goals; I beat myself up for not trying to achieve my goals. So again I say to you: you want to be a writer? Find the time to write. Even if you have to take a notepad to the crapper and lock the door, write. It’s just that simple.
But don’t forget to live – yesterday I spent the day at the beach combing for interesting stones – because you have to write about what you know.