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?
8 thoughts on “This is Such a Chore”
I was just thinking (fretting) yesterday about how hard it is to make time for everything in my life, not just creating but taking care of myself and etc. Thank you for this post!
And you have twice as much time to strive for, between your writing and your wonderful painting. I shouldn’t be complaining! One thing I’ve realized is that digging in the dirt accomplishes both taking care of myself and helping with writing, as I daydream my stories when harrassing slugs. It is hard to find time for everything, and after a certain point I find myself asking, ‘is this what I want life to be about?’ As in nothing but chores, bills, work, etc. As the old saying goes, do I want to be remembered because I kept a clean house? Well, okay, yeah, but with dogs and a kid it’s probably never going to happen so why keep striving? I need to give up and write. How’s that for reasoning away guilt? Hope you find time for yourself this week.
The verbal and visual arts make for quite a balancing act, to be sure, and I’m still learning it! But in the many good moments, when the balance feels achievable, it feels really satisfying to have the two pursuits. 🙂
Weeding works for me, as far as the garden is concerned. There’s something so satisfying about plucking out the unnecessary from the soil, even when I can’t manage it in my own life. ;b
I did realize, this morning, that it’s essential for me to feel like I’m choosing my way with time, rather than feeling like time is having its way with me. That means really using my calendar (as you’ve learned, with scheduling time for writing) and then trusting that the calendar is a reliable system (therefore stop worrying about x when it’s already written in!)… and keeping to regular breaks, so I don’t just get lost in something and then surface at 6 PM wondering where the day went.
You’re so right about time managing us. A friend told me she’s planning on kidnapping me this Friday, for a day of wanderings and dinner out. My first thought was all the things I had to do. And then I realized, I don’t have to do any of them. Which led to the further thought of how hard it is to let others do for us, to let go of that overly developed sense of responsibility. I’m thinking it might just be fun to learn how to let go of that. Plus, this friend is a writer so we’ll have a whole day to talk about writing. How wonderful that will be. And how much easier that makes it to walk away from the dump run I was going to do.
“Whatever works” for you sounds right to me. 🙂
Just recently I made it to the point where I could say that I was an artist. Somehow I thought artist was too lofty a word to use for what I do. Try to do. And society says that if you can’t support yourself on what you make, then what you do isn’t valid. But I realized that my intention and my effort make me an artist. When I realized that this word isn’t just for the few who excel so highly that no one would ever think to argue with them about it, it freed me (mostly) from the weird guilt that creative people can carry around. For me, now that my daughter is grown and living on her own, this translates to no longer building pyramids of never finishable tasks that have to be done before I’m ‘allowed’ to sit down and write.
I’m glad you’re searching for a rhythm that will work for your writing. I hope it’s a ‘chore’ that feels good, and fulfilling, to you after you’ve accomplished it.
You are so right about the weird guilt. You’d think at 51 I’d be past the age of feeling that guilt when it comes time to do something for myself. And of course there’s always that niggling little voice in the back of the brain that’s asking if the chores are excuses…and that’s a whole ‘nother guilt trip! I love the visual of your pyramid of unfinishable tasks. I picture writing balanced precariously at the top, right on the point, and me laboring up those huge steps to get there. My plan is to abolish guilt and write tonight. By the way, the writer’s group last week absolutely loved your cinquain. Thanks again for letting me share it. The writer’s group has a presence on Facebook because we have people who can’t attend in person. Is it possible to share it there, too? I’m not sure how comfortable you’d feel about the writing existing in the Facebook world.
I love that your “plan is to abolish guilt and write tonight.” 🙂
I’m glad your writer’s group liked my cinquain, and you’re welcome to share it on Facebook if you like. It feels like having a small example of my work out in the ether, to be discovered by people I might never come into contact with otherwise. I wonder if you could just mention my blog’s address with my name? But if that’s against the rules of the group, I understand and it’s no problem. I’m just honored that you asked me! Thank you! And happy writing tonight! 🙂
We can still do the dump run on another day… its not like the stuff runs away…
I thought about the thoughts of being an artist or not. I guess society is hard on what your “job” is to what people think about you. But just because you dont get any money out of it doesnt mean you are not an artist. There are actors who struggle for years to live of their passion and authors or singers. I think that everybody is an artist who makes some kind of art. But people who dont know anything about arts will never see it that way and just think you are showing off or pity you. So we keep in a circle of people who know what we are doing and who know what a struggle it is to get our art out there for more people to enjoy and mabe one day make money out of it and then feel comfortable to call ouselves artists. Isnt that silly?
I am the same though…but dont fear…you are here in the right circle of people who appreciate every little attempt on any kind of art, mostly the written kind.