Recently, I had a meditation class, where the teacher talked about the importance of self-compassion, as part of a series on Cultivating Inner Friendship. During the discussion, I mentioned how difficult I found it to walk the path between self-care and productivity. I said that I understood the importance of accepting the situation with kindness, if I reached the end of the day and I hadn’t done any work on my novel. But I pointed out that, if I did that every day, I’d never get it done.
The teacher smiled at me and said, “When you try to motivate yourself by being hard on yourself, does it work? Or do you find you actually meet more resistance?”
And I realised she was right. When I’m mean to myself about getting my writing done, it sometimes results in me getting it done. But it’s always hard, it’s always a struggle, it always feels like a chore, and it often leads me to resent it even more.
During the guided meditation part of the class, I thought more about what the teacher had said. We were meant to be thinking about being a friend to ourselves, but I started wondering if I could try and make friends with my writing. After all, I like spending time with my friends. So, if I could view the novel as a friend, perhaps I would want to spend more time working on it – in friendship.
I often commiserate with other writers that writing is what we most want to do with our time, and yet writing is what we least want to do with our time. My usual quip is that, “I don’t want to write – I want to have written!”
I wonder why we do this to ourselves, since it takes so much effort and we seem to complain about it all the time…
But, I remember one time, some years ago, when I decided I was going to give it up, and never write again. That plan lasted about half an hour…
So, there’s something about it that keeps me coming back. And once I’ve finished my third and fourth novels (both now definitely at the stage where I know they will eventually become real stories and properly exist in the world), I have nine more in the list of potential other ones to write (I added a new one, just last week)!
I dream of a time when I have no other time commitments or work obligations (even though I love my paid editing work and still can’t believe I get to do it for a living – it’s still work and I still resent it sometimes). A time when my days will stretch ahead, with all the space and energy I need to dedicate to my writing. But I also wonder if that freedom (if it even exists or is possible) will mean I’m less likely to write, since I don’t have any other restrictions to make me set deadlines and schedule time for it.
I don’t know what the future holds. And I don’t know how my situation in life will shape my relationship with my writing, as circumstances change.
Right now, I have a laminated picture of two bears hugging, which sits on my desk and greets me every morning with the phrase: Make friends with the novel. And I have a sticker that says the same thing, stuck to my laptop keyboard. And I’ve made great strides with both novels since deciding on that approach. It’s not always easy, and I still sometimes wonder why I’m making myself do it. But, it’s definitely been more fun, and often flowed more easily. So, I’m sticking with it for the time being.