by Jenny Hansen
Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.”
My New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to show up for my writing. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I thought so too until I spent 2010 showing up for everything else but my writing.
Now mind you, many of the things I showed up for were huge, life-changing events: a high-risk pregnancy, the birth of my first child, the loss of a treasured pet, the loss of my husband’s mother, our last living and treasured parent, moving from the home where I’ve lived for more than ten years. Plus there were the usual work, church, friend events that are important in keeping the day-to-day wheels of life running.
I continued to attend writing events where I could and, of course, I keep in close communication with my fellow members of Writers in the Storm, but I did not show up to my own works in progress on a regular basis and it showed.
Laura Drake is our goal-oriented mover and shaker here at WITS and she started making noises on New Year ’s Eve for all of us to post our writing goals for the year (hers – in plural – were done). With the daily added tasks of a new baby, along with a husband and a job, her initial enthusiastic encouragement sounded like a loud, jarring squawk. Writing goals for the YEAR? I could barely get to a writing goal for the week and my personal goals read something like “start exercising and get some sleep.”
Still, my Christmas present to myself was taking time each day to read at least two essays from Julia Cameron’s “The Sound of Paper” and I was immersing myself in the delight of her pages each morning for about 20 minutes while I ate breakfast. (When I finish the book, I’ll be posting a review for our site as it has been a life-changer for me.) She discusses at length that “the role of an artist is to show up for the work and allow it to move through them.”
I sat at my breakfast table December 30th, weeping cathartic tears as I thought about this very simple answer to my writing angst – a derivation of the answer that I give to people starting out in a new career. When you aren’t sure what to do, do something. Even if what you’re doing isn’t “THE” thing, you are out there showing up each day so you will be ready when the perfect thing comes along.
I was crying because I hadn’t been following my own advice, especially when it came to writing. I hadn’t understood that I just had to show up for the muse to come. I thought I had to build a writing temple, a schedule, a process, develop some sort of structure, all so the muse would have a set destination to show up to (and yes, I’m aware about how colossally dumb this sounds now that I’m writing it out loud for you). My tears sprang from the joy and relief that I didn’t have to be somebody who had it together for my creative spirit to come to the fore, I just had to plop my overtired, cranky, insanely disorganized self down in front of whatever writing surface was handy, as often as possible.
That’s it. That is my huge epiphany for the New Year. Show up to the page and the creative spirit will move through you if you stop trying to tell it how it needs to act, who it should be and what it should be saying. Park your inner control freak somewhere far from the page and just write. The rest will come.
Keeping this in mind, I made a writing resolution that can fit into the life I have, rather than the life I wish for that is filled with huge blocks of free time for my writing: I will show up to the page for five hours a week. All of you here on Writers In The Storm heard it first and I give you leave to ask me how I’m doing with my resolution throughout the year as my daughter learns to crawl, walk and (heaven forbid) run.
All my previously ordered goals on specific numbers of pages or chapters have been sent to the thrift shop with all the other items that I’ve outgrown or stopped using. All they’ve been doing for me is stressing me out further during this busy, blissful, chaotic phase in my life. Five hours a week seems like a decadent gift to my creative self. Even if I have to take it in twenty minute intervals, I plan to luxuriate in it like a long, hot bubble bath.
What are your writing goals for 2011? Please share them with us in the comments section.