“Life is what happens when you’re not writing.” I don’t know if that’s a real quote or if I just made it up in my head. I hope it’s not a real quote because I don’t want to bash a perfectly good aphorism. It’s what popped into my head a bit ago while cleaning up after our old and intentionally incontinent cat (probably in protest for her two younger siblings, but I digress). I think the implication of such a statement is that life is somehow separate from writing, that we stand outside our writing.
I’ve been feeling really guilty lately that I haven’t worked on my Work in Progress in nigh on to two months. Actually that’s not entirely true. I profess not to believe in guilt. To be honest I’m annoyed I haven’t finished the rewrite of the book. Regardless, I’ve thought of a way to cut myself some slack.
I realized we don’t stand outside our writing. People say, “Writing is my life.” If that’s true, what you’re really saying is “My life is my writing.” Whatever comes out of us, out of our subconscious minds and deep hidden recesses, injected into the flesh of a notebook with the syringe that is the fountain pen or tattooed onto virtual skin through the action of manipulating keys, is based in our feelings and beliefs and experiences.
“Oh, Donna,” I hear you saying, “You are so amazingly profound to have discovered this secret eluding humankind for eons.”
I’m nodding sagely. What I acknowledged about my writing today is my psyche has been temporarily diverted to a decision I’m trying to make about my future—get a master’s degree or a certificate or certification classes, and in what field? (AKA What do I want to be when I grow up?) My writing self isn’t on hiatus, though. She’s taking notes. She’s doing research. She’s storing up these thoughts and emotions and processes and details for my future writing.
Obviously it won’t directly correlate. It’s not a one-to-one correspondence, like when people ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” The answer to that one is, “Um, I live.” I don’t plan to write about a woman’s midlife crisis and journey of self-discovery. Although I suppose I could. But you just know (if you’ve read my books) she’d run into a sorcerer masquerading as her personal trainer who’s on the lam from a secret society of Cthulhu-worshipping Baptist preachers intent on subverting the foundations of the world as we know it.
What I’m saying to myself—and you, if you’re feeling guilty about not writing—is chalk it up to experience. Dry spells happen, events intervene. It’s all fodder for the creative mind. Don’t use it as an excuse to quit writing. Because you know you can’t ever stop. Not really.
Not if your life is your writing.