Having a writing lifestyle takes commitment, effort, practice, and ownership. For all these reasons, it’s like a relationship. Or at the very least, it’s like any other lifestyle decision: establishing a workout routine; changing to gluten-free; joining a club or organization; introducing mindfulness to each day. I’m defining lifestyle as: a way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group.
This means, of course, that all our lifestyles are different in practice or application even if we call them the same thing. My writing lifestyle will be different than other writers’. Your gluten-free lifestyle will be different than mine. But I think we can all agree that our individual lifestyles won’t be successful without the aforementioned ingredients (commitment, effort, practice, and ownership). I’m sure we could come up with others, but you get the point. You can define your ingredients for success on your own time.
Realizing that I wanted my writing to be a lifestyle rather than a hobby took cognizant effort.
More accurately put, acknowledging that I treated my writing as a hobby instead of a lifestyle took cognizant effort. I would fit writing in when I had the time. Or when I had to – because I had a deadline for something I told someone I would write for them. Sometimes I went into short spurts where I did it every day for a period of time.
And then, like a person who starts a gym routine, something got in the way, I fell out of the routine, and I stopped showing up. But when I wasn’t doing it, I missed it. I felt guilty about not doing it. I felt a little resentful of some of the things that got in the way. I was irritated with myself for letting those things get in the way. Etc. This half-assed effort wasn’t getting me anywhere.
I was treating writing like a hookup. Give it the nod, flash it the bedroom eyes, say something coy and flirtatious, take it home, sleep with it, walk away in the morning, and then hover by the phone desperate for it to call me back, become angry when it didn’t, send it mean text messages, wait for a response, finally get a band-aid response, kiss, make up, fuck again, and here we go. Around and around.
There was not enough effort on my part to say:
- I’m serious about this and this is important to me
- What that looks like is …
- This means that I will …
- And if I don’t, then …
And so from the time that I graduated with my M.F.A. to this year, I’ve been in this vicious hookup cycle with my writing. A terrible relationship. An on-and-off again affair.
I decided that if I wanted a happy and healthy relationship (lifestyle) with my writing, than I needed to evaluate what I was doing wrong, what I was or wasn’t bringing to the relationship, what I wanted this relationship to look like, and how I was going to get there, including rewards for good behavior and results for poor choices.
During the evaluation stage it occurred to me that at one time in my life my writing had been a lifestyle and a commitment I had made. But I was a little girl then with little else to worry over. Choosing to have a serious relationship with writing was increasingly more difficult as I got older. How do you really explain to someone that you want to be in love with and committed to writing? And so writing was like the mistress that everyone knew about but no one talked about – I mean, what would the neighbors say? And I treated it as such: kept it tucked away in its tower except for the occasional hookups.
[NOTE: I attempted to find a word for a male mistress and I couldn’t find one. Google so kindly reminded me that men usually kept mistresses. What the fuck. In all of history no woman kept a manstress? If you know of a word that would be suitable in this instance please share it. I feel very irritated about this.]
But when you belong with something, it doesn’t matter how you keep it hidden or locked up; it’s always on your mind. Or you hear it up there in its tower, rattling the cage, trying to pick the lock to the chains you bound their hands and feet with. To keep it safe and to keep it yours while not allowing it the space or chance to breathe its own life.
Once I realized that I had had this happy and committed, unashamed lifestyle with my writing at one time and I was now an adult and didn’t need anyone else’s permission to have it again, I walked up to the tower and let Writing out of its cage.
No more hookups or one-night stands. Bye-bye to hidden affairs, flings and hushed whispers.
Writing and I have been holding hands and surrounded by animated floating hearts ever since. We are in a relationship. My status has even changed on Facebook. We went from “It’s complicated” to “This is really serious.”
Now, instead of shying away from the lifestyle I’ve always wanted to have, the relationship to my calling that I’ve longed for, I’ve made the step. I’ve said to myself:
I’m serious about this and this is important to me. This is what I’m meant to do.
What that looks like (at least for this year until I rewrite my goals) is writing at least 1900 words a week (doesn’t matter what project), choosing reading over TV, setting up my author platform, creating a workspace in my home, and blogging (for LVW and Burlington VT Mom’s Blog and for this blog here. The one you’re reading.).
This means that I will be engaging with my passion in some way almost every day of the week and I will feel better about who I am and my place in the world.
And if I don’t, then I’m letting myself and my writing down and I’ll feel like shit and I’ll never publish anything and we’ll all live unhappily ever after and writing will probably choose to go back into its tower because I failed so miserably to be its hero. It will die there. A slow, painful death. Eventually someone will stumble upon its skeleton up there in the shackles, next to a hand-scribbled note that reads:
Why couldn’t she just love me the way I loved her?
I can’t stand the thought of Writing dying up there in a tower alone because I failed to show it I was serious.
I choose you, Writing. We are in this together. Lets make book babies. Lets live long and prosper. I promise we’ll have one hell of a lifestyle.