My fellow writers:
In previous years, I’ve spent a LOT of time during The Writer’s March thinking about time posts about time– when should we write, when can we write, when WILL we write. It was about finding time, making time, recognizing the time we actually have (and the things we tend to spend with it). This year, perhaps because my own writing has shifted, I find myself much less interested in WHEN we’ll write, but WHY we’ll do it – and, as a part of that – why would one decide to dedicate themselves to writing with us in this month of March.
If you’ve participated in Writer’s March before, you probably remember that I spent a year living in Indiana. This was a long year for me – the weather got to me, the lack of money got to me, the poor pay of my jobs got to me. The only thing I had going for me was my writing, and eventually, that got to me, too. I would do what I was supposed to – namely, show up every day. I would write for the required length of time. I would push through on days when I knew I needed to push through. I was steadfast; I was diligent; I was a workhorse. I accomplished a lot. I finished that draft (is it the seventh?) of my book; I queried agents; I watched reruns of CASTLE for a month when I faced message after message of rejection (some after having read the book, most after only having read the query).
I also understood, amidst all of that work, I’d have to work again. And somewhere in this whole mess, I started to question this whole novel-writing process. Why was I doing what I was doing? What did I mean to accomplish? Why was one book worth six years of effort? I started to worry I took the wrong route. I should have become a doctor, I said (on more than one occasion). I should have searched for a cure for Cancer. I should have spent my time building a house. I felt like I had accomplished nothing, that it was all for nothing. All of that work and what was it for? Why did I do it? Why did it matter? As you can imagine, I stopped writing. I began to think that I hated writing.
A lot of things happened between then and now. I returned to Albuquerque to work as a lecturer in the English department. I began teaching four classes a semester, and my days became filled with teaching, planning, emailing, and grading. The little space I did have, I wanted to fill only with things meaningful to me. I started reading books again – books that I wanted to read, not books I felt like I was supposed to read (cue Game of Thrones, Neil Gaiman, murder mysteries like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). And somewhere in all of this, I found myself stealing away in the afternoons to write. Sometimes, I would go to the library between classes, or to a coffee shop where I’d spring for the expensive latte. Other times, I found myself slinking into my desk in the middle of the night. I started to look at writing NOT as work, but as a reprieve. I should be grading, I would say, I should be planning, I should be making money – and then I would turn off the Internet, not even bother with the trusted timer, and I would just go to it.
Let me tell you this: there is nothing more delicious than writing when you know you are supposed to be doing something else.
And so, why do I write? Right now, for me it has no purpose other than joy. Let’s say that again: I enjoy writing. Why did it take me so long to remember this? I used to know say this all the time, but I’d lost track over the years. It seemed that the more serious I became about writing, the LESS joy I took in it. And so, these days, I’m taking the joy back. Do I want my novel to be finished – of course? But more than that, I want to wake up and write for the same reason people wake up and do yoga or wake up and run – writing gives me pleasure.
And so, if I had to give you a reason for joining the March this year, it is this: because you want to. Because it will bring you joy. Because writing brings joy. And, if you are like me: because you want to get BACK to the joy.
So yes, set your goals (a daily goal, a monthly goal: goals are good), but also – and perhaps more importantly – as you embark on this monthly indulgence, you might want to take a minute to focus on what writing means to you. Why do YOU do it? And whatever you do, as we write through the month, see if you can keep those reasons with you.
Happy (A) Writer’s March,
P.S. If you want, you can make turn this post into a prompt: Spend an hour answering this question: why do YOU write? And then, if you like what you come up with, Jennifer Simpson has a great online project called the “I Write Because…” project. Perhaps you type your thoughts up and send it her way for possible publication?