A guest post to motivate, encourage and inspire...
On Writing Every Day
“The things you do every day take on a certain beauty, and provide a kind of invisible architecture to daily life.”
-Gretchen Rubin, “Why I Try to Do Some Things Every Day, Without Exception”
When writers I admire talk about their daily practices, I try to pay attention. In her 2009 TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert said, “I'm a mule, and the way that I have to work is, I have to get up at the same time every day, and sweat and labor and barrel through it really awkwardly.” Poet Mary Oliver said in a recent interview with Krista Tippett that you have to make an appointment to get the work on the page. “Because the creative part of us gets tired of waiting, or just gets tired,” she said.
About a year ago, I made a decision not to let the creative part of me get tired of waiting; I decided to write every day. To encourage myself to show up, I was loose with the things I accepted as “writing.” I kept an Excel spreadsheet with the funky list of what I wrote in 2014: a journal entry about my son’s second Halloween, answers to questions from the translator of the Japanese edition of my book, an essay made up of old internet dating emails, interview transcriptions for an article about advanced care planning, and a poetry submission to The New Yorker.
I found that writing every day became a virtuous circle. I wanted to feel like a writer, so I wrote every day. And because I wrote every day, I felt like someone who was in the game. Maybe not quite “a writer,” but someone who was practicing writing, like you might practice piano or meditation. My identity began to shift, little by little. The themes I wanted to write about began to emerge and form themselves into larger projects. When people asked what I was working on, I had something to say.
Writing every day helps me build a long-term friendship with the creative part of me. I write every day, just like I’m married every day, and I am a mother and stepmother. I’m living into all of these roles, imperfectly. Some days, writing and I do not get along and I wonder if I’m too old to go to medical school instead. Other days, writing feels like the best first date I’ve ever had, the perfect fit for me. Either way, writing and I are in it for the long haul.
My husband gave a toast at our wedding about the anxiety of long-term commitment. How do I know I will love my spouse when I am eighty? His answer was that we don’t, and can’t, know for certain. But we can build a marriage, day by day, that we still want to be in when we’re eighty. We can cook and fight and make choices on behalf of our eighty-year-old self.
This is a good description of why I write every day. I am building a life, day by day, in which I am a writer. I do it so that when I’m fifty, and sixty-five, and ninety-nine, I can string the daily writing together and see that I made something. Not something perfect, but something that is all mine.
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