Writing can be a passion in the abstract but a phantom in reality. I love to write, you might say. Perhaps your mantra is “I must write to be a whole person.” Whatever your ideal of writing, we must all put it into practice. This blog article is a reality because I’ve applied my fingers to my keyboard. It’s a bit of a miracle to create something where there was just an idea and a passion moments earlier.
We all must recognize that writing requires protection, however. To make progress on anything you’ll want to protect the time you need to achieve and finish it. My writing workshop is getting a new table for students this spring. The floors were transformed in our renovation, and now it’s time for the writing table to get a revival, too. To create this table my carpenter-friend Steve and I must estimate the time we’ll need to bring the table from a desire to something you can lean against with your forearms, hands on keyboard or pen scratching upon a notebook.
“How long will it take?” I ask him this morning, after our weekly Mexican breakfast.
“Not more than a day.”
“Eight hours then?”
“Easily that.” He’s from Liverpool, and they talk in that voice.
“So, we can do this on a Sunday. Which one?”
We’re building a table, but now it’s really going to happen, because the Sunday of March 1 has been protected. In the same way, a novel or an essay collection or a memoir moves from passion to reality. What it requires is for you to protect the time needed to create it.
My favorite creativity coach Eric Maisel calls this collection of intention and time your writing space. And writing is something that is not easily protected, unless you have awareness. In the first week of this Advanced Creativity training (I recommend it) he paints five examples of unprotected spaces. Each of these kept the writing in the shadows, a phantom of the desire to create.
- An interruption from your husband during your writing time
- Email that you’re checking, responding to, instead of writing
- A noisy distraction that drives you out of your favorite writing place
- Visiting relatives who you believe require your constant attention during a visit
- A budding daughter who wants to practice her Italian with you during your evening writing time
In each case, the wishful writer succumbs to the distraction, the interruption, the crucial email. Just being connected, diligent, engaged and helpful. But not writing. Maisel says in a gentle reminder, “You didn’t protect your writing space very well, did you?”
You are the only one who can protect it: you are the warden, prison guard, and convict. Your writing space is a literal space and it’s also a metaphoric space. Both need protection, the first with explicit rules, the second with strong intentions.
Maisel goes on to explain that you may have to enlist the aid of your family, that a visit is a blessing but you’re getting your writing done, that the noise can be eliminated by writing elsewhere. That you might need a sign for a door, a talisman, an icon. But you are the only one who can protect your writing space.
What is the most common thing in your life that you must protecting your writing from? Let me know with a comment.