What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing -- and can you eliminate it?
In a word: work. 5 to 6 days out of the week I commute to a non-profit agency to help teenagers in foster care live independently. It's a great job: flexible, non-stressful, generally rewarding. The problem is that when I'm spending 40 hours a week focusing on a job in social work I'm not focusing on writing.
A job takes up more than just the 40 hours when I'm working. There's commuting, and then there's the time after work when I'm relaxing and recovering from the day and putting it all behind me. By the time I'm done with all of that, it's late and I'm tired and I have all number of excuses for why I'm not going to spend any time doing anything creative.
Of course, I could just give myself a kick in the pants, stop whining, and sit down to write after work. That IS something I'm working on. But I could also start pursuing my dream of making a living from being a writer.
When I was a kid I wrote prolifically. I had journals where I pretended to be Harriet the Spy and where I made plans to be the world's greatest teacher. I had an ancient Brother word processor where I created the world of Spaghetti White and imagined what it might be like inside the head of my cat. At school I had created the character of a friendly monster and wrote story after story about his adventures. At that time in my life, I had no idea how difficult it would be to try to make a living. It just made sense that I would keep writing for the rest of my life.
That dream faded as I grew older and the practicalities of life set in. I also developed a serious guilty conscious and a serious doubt in my own abilities to create using words. I began to believe that I needed to do something practical with my life that would also end up saving the world. So I majored in social work and decided to devote my life to serving other people, in one way or another.
Today, as I navigate my way through the world of behavioral health case management, I would sometimes like to return to my high school self and shake her. What was I thinking? How could I be so blind to the sensitive, anxious part of myself that is making this career so trying? How could I have ignored my real talents and the aspects of my personality that thrive when doing anything artistic: writing, playing violin and piano, creating collages, telling stories?
My dreams of living as a writer are beginning to re-emerge. To make such a career switch would probably be a complicated process but I'm not completely shutting the idea out. I don't think I could last for the rest of my life earning money in non-profit agencies. I think I will wither away and burn out if I don't make much more room for creativity and self-expression in my life. I am still exploring ways to do this; it's all part of the healing I talked about yesterday. Since I would like this next year to be one of manifestation, I am going to start putting some of those ways in to practice.
In the mean time, I'm going to do my best to enjoy this job and I'm going to do my best to fight off the myriad excuses I come up with everyday to keep me from doign what I REALLY love.