Too often I have flailed around in my commitment to writing because I was looking at it as a burden. Yes, I had this writing project I wanted to finish, or, I had this idea that I wanted to be a writer. I’d find it easy to push ahead for a while, until I ran out of time or I couldn’t think of what happened next in the story. Or, worse, I’d get some feedback that I had a serious problem with the plot or a character and had to rethink some chapters. Then I’d find myself resenting my story, or doubting myself or in some way. I’d be angry at writing for demanding so much of me, usually something I couldn’t deliver, such as a talent just a notch greater than what I possessed.
Over time I was able to make a consistent commitment to writing and develop a daily practice. But it wasn’t always easy to turn on my computer in the morning rather than read the paper before going to work. Yet, somehow my desire to write overcame my resistance. But my recent post about The Twelve Steps To A Writing Practice (http://dailywritingcoach.blogspot.com/2011/05/twelve-step-program-to-daily-writing.html) made me think about what we need to have in place in order to commit to something as challenging as writing. While I don’t practice a twelve step program, I believe I hit upon one of the cornerstones of such programs: willingness. I’ve had to be willing to do what was necessary to bring my manuscript to completion. When I had a book contract, of course, it went without saying that I would go the distance for the book. But I don’t have a contract for my novel, or my blog, or any other writing I do. At least, not yet. So I have to find the willingness within myself to get the work done.
To me, willingness comes before everything else. I have to be willing to spend the time, learn the craft, work with myself to overcome my shortcomings, whether they are in my mind in the form of doubt or negative thinking, or in my endurance for pain. I have to have the willingness to develop the necessary discipline to move my writing along, to fill in the holes in my mastery of the craft, and I have to have especially the willingness to sit in front of a blank page until the words come.
And, somehow I have been able to do that, develop the willingness, but it has often been a fight. When the words weren’t flowing, my writing was a burden, something I had to wrestle with. But as I’ve mulled over the steps to establishing a writing practice, I now see that fight in the same light as resenting my child because she needed feeding or changing or loving. It isn’t the manuscript’s fault I have to figure out how to tighten the opening (which is my current challenge).
It isn’t the fault of my desire to write that I have to say no to TV or internet browsing or a meet up with friends in order to carve out time to write. It isn’t my story that is to blame for not yet having the insights and skill to bring it to fruition. I have chosen to write and that choice comes with certain requirements and responsibilities. I can approach them with grown up willingness or adolescent resentment. I can say, damn, I don‘t have enough time. Or, what will writing teach me in the fifteen minutes I have to give it today? Willingness helps get the job done. I’ve claimed for years that writing is my spiritual discipline because it teaches me about myself. It helps me be a grown up. If I’m willing.