If you can’t seem to work out putting something that’s genuinely important front and center in your life, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean that thing isn’t really important to you. It means that our lives are full, complex, and interdependent. It may mean that for this season, the cost of putting that thing front and center is just too high.
I think we need to stop letting motivational speakers tell us our dreams are worth wrecking our waking lives to chase.
I’ve been diligently reading and working through The Artist’s Way, which insists that you need to write three pages of handwritten free writing each morning. During the Sojourn creative writing retreat, Dave Harrity asked all the participants to commit to twenty minutes of journaling each day. I keep trying to blog here daily. I have a commitment to write at Social Media Explorer (my day job) at least weekly.
I’ve also been attempting to write (A) my Quills & Quibbles monthly exercises, (B) my steampunk Little Red Riding Hood story, “Big Teeth,” (C) the outline of my next two longer fiction pieces, Black Heart, and an as-yet-untitled contemporary fantasy.
Along with all this, I have a full-time job doing work I also love. I have a 21-year-old marriage which experience has taught me isn’t going to maintain itself. I have two kids who are in completely different life stages, one an elementary school girl and the other a teen boy, who still need my presence and guidance if not the marathon of daily physical care that smaller kids need.
I pretty much gave up on friendships this year. Seriously. Where were they going to fit?
I have come to the conclusion that I need to stop trying to follow someone else’s map, because I’m getting lost. This summer at FandomFest, I briefly met fantasy author Jim C. Hines. After looking up his blog, I found out that he’s written all his books on his lunch break during his day job.
The dude has written eight freaking books since 2006. ON HIS LUNCH BREAK. Good grief.
I used to doodle in the margins when I was in school. A lot. In fact, I’ve hung on to notebooks, not because I needed the actual class notes anymore, but because there were really good doodles. Or I’ve transcribed or recreated especially good doodles, sketches and writing snippets from those margins into more permanent journals.
I’ve realized that I need to return to writing in the margins. Not because writing isn’t important to me. Not because I lack discipline. I don’t think a person who truly lacked discipline could do some of the things I’ve done. I need to return to the margins because that’s how I think best creatively. It’s in the margins, the periphery of things, that’s where I see things the clearest. I stop taking it all too seriously, cut loose, become playful, and short-circuit my inner editor in the margins.
That’s not to say there won’t be periods of marathon, front-and-center activity, too. But those will have to be worked in when it’s necessary. That can’t be my quotidien status quo. It’s just not me.
So consider this my emancipation proclamation, and yours. It’s okay to write on your lunch break. It’s okay to write on the bus (JK Rowling wrote a big chunk of the first Harry Potter on public transit). It’s okay to break your Big Thing into pieces that retain meaning and still fit into your life without breaking it.
Dreams are like money. They’re a wonderful servant, and an awful master. I’m not killing or even deferring my dreams. I’m just putting them in their proper place.