Friday, February 22, 2013

Renewal: First Stage


Early in January I posted that I had selected One Word to live by in 2013: renewal. I also pinpointed a few areas in which I was looking to renew myself and my life. I am happy to report now that I’ve accomplished the first item on my list: renewing my passion for and time given to writing.

This accomplishment came thanks to a wonderful course I took: “I Should Be Writing”Boot Camp, given by Lisa Romeo. It is not a workshop, not a writing craft class. Its aim is just to help distracted and waylaid writers find their way back to their passion and to help them establish or restart a writing routine.

Lisa began the class by having us make a list of the things that keep us from writing regularly, and she helped us to see how many of them are psychological impediments that we can change or work around.


She made us accountable. Each week we sent her a statement of what we were going to do that week to enhance our writing practice, and she had us check in with her twice before the week was over to report on our progress (or lack of). I found very few times that I had to report no progress.


The most important thing I got from the course was the ability to give myself permission to write. This had been a big sticking point for me. I have never really felt that I had a right to “waste” time on writing when I should be doing more productive things—like working for a living. Yes, I’ve had two small pieces published, but I wasn’t paid for them, and I wasn’t likely to ever make much if any money from writing. I believed I was too old to start writing seriously. I didn’t have the drive. I wasn’t good enough.


But Lisa simply took it for granted that we all would write, that we all needed to write, that writing was an important and intrinsically valuable activity in itself, whether or not we ever did it professionally, whether or not we ever published anything. She made us believe that we have the right to write just for its own sake. And because she took us and our writing passion seriously, I began to believe in it again.


She had us come up with a plan of what would work for us. I decided to start a bit conservatively and aim for a half hour of writing three times a week. For me this was a huge leap. The first day I sat at my desk knowing I would spend the next half hour writing, I felt an enormous sense of freedom. For that time I would not tell myself that I needed to get to work. I wouldn’t feel guilty about what I was doing instead of something more important. I gave myself permission to treat my writing as important in itself. I began to realize how much time I actually wasted in the morning before I began working (yes, including e-mail and Facebook), and I understood that that time would be much more productive if I gave it to my writing.


About the time the course began I received an e-mail solicitation from Modern Dog magazine for submissions for their feature called “How I Met My Dog.” At another time I might have read it, printed it out, thought that yeah, maybe I should write up something, and done nothing. Now, however, I made the commitment to actually write an essay. I used those half hour slots and wrote a couple of drafts. And then I submitted it.


I have also returned to my long-neglected novel. I made a file for the chapters I’d revised so far. I committed to reviewing three or four chapters a week to reacquaint myself with it and start thinking about more revisions. In doing this I found myself falling in love with it again. All my chapters and revision notes are now in one place, ready to print out and read over and to pick up again where I left off. I wrote a couple of new scenes and made more notes. I’ve also begun to reconsider some of the finished and unfinished pieces I have in my files and to work on them for possible submissions—both fiction and nonfiction.


At the end of six weeks, I now have a detailed plan for my future writing, in terms of weeks, months, and the rest of the year. I’ve made a plan with my writing friend Amy, who also took the course, to be accountable to each other for our writing. And I have a couple of drafts for another submission to “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”


Most important: I feel like a writer. “Writer” now means something much broader to me than just a dream of publishing a novel or short story someday. It means a new way of life. It means a passion rediscovered. It means something I will have for the rest of my life: the joy of creation.

It means renewal.