During the process of resurrecting writing from wherever it went, my oncologist told me to think of it as a chore. I had told him that by the time I finished with the day’s chores, I was exhausted and too empty to write. So he suggested that I add it to my list of chores, and give it a time that it had to be done. For example, at eight at night I tell myself, now it’s time for the task of writing. If I think of it as something I have to do rather than something I want to do, then it feels less like a selfish act. I know it’s all semantics but it did help start the words flowing. Well, at least trickling.
It reminds me of a quote from author Karen E. Peterson, who wrote a book called The Write Type. She said ‘We get 168 hours every week and if you only give the world 167 hours, no one’s likely to notice.’ She then followed that with, ‘If writing is relegated to the last thing on your list you haven’t learned to respect or cherish yourself as a writer enough to make writing an integral part of your life.’
Ouch. That makes me squirm.
It also makes me wonder how I define myself. When asked what I do or who I am, I rarely answer ‘writer’. Instead I list my job running a town, or talk about my husband or son, or where I live. Why is that? Well, because I can’t move past the feeling that writing is a selfish act. And do I want to be known as someone who is selfish? Someone who leaves dirty dishes to go write? Someone who doesn’t fix dinner for the son, to work on that chapter? Of course I don’t. In spite of the fact that my husband does dishes and my son cooks. Well, actually, he can microwave. The point is, I don’t define myself by describing something that is a deep part of my soul, that gives me peace, that has been part of me as long as I can remember.
This makes me question what it takes to be selfish for an hour each night, without guilt. Well, maybe the ‘without guilt’ part is asking too much. Maybe the question is, what does it take to write in spite of guilt. I haven’t figured out the answer yet. But one thing I have figured out is that writing at night is much harder now. It used to be my favorite, and most productive, time. But now I prefer writing on Fridays, after the son leaves for school and before the husband gets up. I know it’s only one day, but that’s not saying I don’t find other moments to write. It’s just that this is a scheduled time. And it works in spite of chores and guilt because I can tell myself I can write while he sleeps because any chores will make too much noise and wake him up. See? I’m still having to justify writing time.
So yes, I force myself to write and call it a chore, and justify it in the mornings by calling it a quiet chore. But whatever works, right?