I haven’t really written in a month – which is an eternity for me. And although I know it’s a temporary lapse due to some very big and exciting changes in my life – it bothers me. I am a writer, it’s who I am not just what I do. So shouldn’t I be doing it everyday, regardless of what else is going on?
There are books, classes and entire months out there dedicated to the practice of writing everyday. And in theory, I am on board one hundred percent.
In reality however, that’s not the way my process works.
So I was relieved yesterday when Newberry Honor winning Young Adult author, Megan Whalen Turner talked about her writing process. Which included NOT writing every day.
“Remember those little locked diaries, with one page for every day of the year? It didn’t work that way for me. At the end of the year, most of my pages were empty, and other days I needed eight pages…”
She was talking about her process to the group of teens at the Lake Erie Ink Teen Writers Symposium, where we were both guest speakers. But clearly I was the one who needed to hear what she had to say. I needed “permission” to be ok with my process.
Megan explained that while some writers can crank out a book or more a year, it takes her several years. And the more she tried to force herself to work on a schedule, the worse it got.
“That’s just not how I work,” she told the teens. And I could totally relate.
I write when I’m moved to write. Which kind of makes sense given that I’m a personal essay writer. I write about my life’s personal experiences. So not only to I need the time to write, I need to feel something AT that time. Which is a little trickier, but when it happens, it flows.
I find it amusing that I often need permission to let myself be true to myself — whether it’s taking a “sad” day and staying in bed, not going to children’s birthday parties, or apparently – to write the way I write. But it makes me think of all the other ways we don’t allow ourselves to be true to our own individual process.
We all have a different way of doing just about everything: how we wake up in the morning, get ready for bed, pack a suitcase… And the more we try to copy someone else’s process, or do things the way we THINK we should, the harder we make it on ourselves.
My journey on this planet has been so very different from anyone else that I know, and I’m guessing that’s not going to change anytime soon. So it shouldn’t surprise me that my writing process would be just as unique.
It’s probably a good idea that I learn to embrace it.