Sunday, December 12, 2010

Writing and life

Sometimes writing means transforming the stuff of life into art. Distilling experience, crystallizing it so that readers recognize it instantly and say, "Yes, that's what life is like."

Often writing means pausing from life, retiring behind a closed door, to make sense of everything that has happened, to digest it.

Sometimes the stuff of life is so immediate, urgent, and troubling--or so thrilling and absorbing--that we can't write. We're too preoccupied with living.

Sometimes we break away from our writing desks to make sure we don't miss life.

Sometimes we live with a mental keyboard in our heads, recording notes. Sometimes in this way, we capture a part of life that we would otherwise forget. Sometimes we write down those notes to fix them more permanently.

Sometimes the writing desk is a solace, an escape from tedium or pain in daily life.

Sometimes writing is a celebration. Sometimes it's a way to process painful truths.

Writing is a life examined, which is supposed to be a life worth living. But a life can't be spent only writing.

Sometimes we put down writing for a while. Sometimes it refuses to be put down.


  1. Wasting my life at my writing desk is something I struggle with. It's what I really love doing, there's absolutely nowhere I'd rather be - but sometimes I wonder if that's not healthy.

  2. Becca: That is the question. So often the problem is procrastination, trying to get TO the writing desk. And then there's the risk of staying there too long!
    I have daily goals, such as walking and using the stationary bike every day, reading, and spending time with family and friends. It's never perfect--far from it--but at least I have plans. Are you a to-do list kind of person, or more spontaneous?

  3. That's part of the problem, I'm not even sure! I do really well with a checklist for writing (write X words today, fix blah-blah in chapter 10), but not so much in real life.

  4. I use lists for everything. Routines help, too--if I get in the habit of doing something at the same time everyday, I'm more likely to keep with whatever it is.

  5. This is a keeper and re-reader post. Thanks, Jennifer.