Beyond the Love of Process

Posted on 15 January 2013

One of my best friends is brilliant and creative and artsy. Her life is also extremely busy — she works full-time in a demanding field and also recently returned to school to earn her MBA. In addition to all this, she’s making time for her art, too.

A few weeks ago, she sent me the following email:

I’ve been thinking about how you write about making time for your writing, and how at one point I think you had to write every day for 30 days and you said how challenging it was. I started making it a point to work on [my own artistic projects] every weekend, even with school because it is an awesome way to procrastinate. But then this week I realized that if I’m serious about making progress and building an inventory, I need to work on them most nights of the week.

How do you get inspired to write? Every day, most days, etc? Beyond the love of the process, how can I/how do you stay disciplined enough, long enough to produce finished products for the consumption of others? Is it really for others, or for us? I feel like they’re for me, mostly, but eventually this is all going to be for sale, so how do I let go of my art and stay inspired enough to make more?

And here’s (most of) my response:

How do I get inspired to write? My primary answer would be: to prevent self-loathing. I know I’ll end up feeling restless, unhappy, guilty, and lazy if I go too long without writing. (And I don’t always write every day. It depends. Sometimes I’ll go through weeks/months of high productivity, and then sometimes I might go weeks without writing in any meaningful way at all.) I tell myself that if I don’t do this — if I don’t keep plugging away and writing, even if it sucks or I don’t feel like it — I’m going to regret it. Sometimes I will even think, “What if I end up dying in 2 or 5 or 10 years? Or what if I become severely disabled, like I go blind or lose my hands in an accident? THEN I’ll be wishing I made use of this time while I had it.”

Seriously, I do this to myself. Mortality is a great motivator.

I also think of my closest writing friends, who each have multiple young children, and then I feel guilty because my life is comparatively easy. Yes, I feel I am insanely busy most of the time, but I can at least arrange my schedule without worrying about keeping a one-year-old happy, or feeling guilty about taking time away from kids to write. So I also tell myself that I better make use of the time/opportunities others would love to have.

Are you sensing a pattern? GUILT, GUILT, GUILT. It’s wonderful stuff.

Of course, the more I write and the more I get into a project, the more interested I am in it and the more I get excited and genuinely want to keep going, all without having to taunt myself with the fear of dying. Goals are big, too. I set my own goals, like making it to 60,000 words by January 1, or writing 2,000 words a day for a month. For you, it would be getting enough pieces together for a show.

To answer your question of whether our art is for us or for others, I think my writing is always for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to publish, or that I don’t want others to enjoy it, or even that I don’t keep readers in mind while writing. It means that at the end of the day, I’m doing this for myself. As much as I want to actually publish a novel one day, it will be a novel I am happy with, not one I wrote tailored to what I think will sell. I want to be proud of it. Because in an ideal world, the finished product will make me feel I accomplished what I’m truly capable of, and that I satisfied my own artistic vision.

So that’s my answer. Ever the optimist, it boils down to fear of death. But I hope it’s clear that when I say this drives me to write, it’s not at all because I feel my words are so important that the world simply must have a record of them before I’m gone. Rather, it’s an effort to at least try to fulfill whatever potential I might have while I’m still here and able to do it. That’s all, but that’s everything.

What’s your motivation?

Photo: Sudden Fiction


11 responses to Beyond the Love of Process

  • Downith says:

    “at the end of the day, I’m doing this for me.”

    I struggle with discipline. A LOT. But someone, I forget who, said, do you want to be someone who wrote a book or someone who wanted to write a book.

    I want to be someone who wrote a book. FOR ME.

  • MSB says:

    So much of my day is spent catering to others. Doing my art, whether it’s taking pictures or writing or something completely different, is the one act I do for me. It helps balance me out. Otherwise, I would have sizzled out long ago.

  • Sarah W says:

    Fear of mortality is good enough for me, most days–I have time anxiety anyway, which is weird for a hard core procrastinator, but there you go.

    But escapism works, too, and the writer’s high, which I hit about once a month or so, but is SO worth the angst.

    And I’d kind of like to know how the story ends, too . . .

  • Averil says:

    I write because I have something to prove. To many people, including myself.

  • senojeiram says:

    This is what I have to try and remember. I have to stop listening to those who said I can’t (some of them were pretty powerful people in my life), and just do it. Not writing – I like writing, and I’d like to write something longer than three pages with a plot that doesn’t fall apart after 2,000 words, but it’s not my passion. Me behind a camera, that makes me happy. I have pictures that I look at days, weeks, even years, later, that make me wonder how I managed to do something so incredible.

    I suppose I need to figure out my motivation. Mortality isn’t it. There’s something out there that gives me a sharp jab in the backside…

  • Catherine says:

    I write because I love writing, love coming out with people and pulling a story into line. I would do it always. But.. I run around a lot after other people. In a way it’s good because the writing then bursts out when it can and my recent short stories have all been taken quickly. At a certain age, after a smidgen of success, I think you’re allowed to think that this is the thing that you do and become quite ordered about getting to it. I don’t think of my writing as staving off mortality or making me feel more worthwhile, it’s just something I have to accomplish because we have chosen each other.

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