Protecting Your Space To Write

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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.

Writing AloneWe 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. More

Don’t call writing hard. Write it now.

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OBrienWhen I watched the wonderful movie The Sessions, I saw the story of Mark O’Brien, a poet who contracted polio as a boy but kept on writing. Kept writing even though he’d lost the control of all of his muscles, except those in his face. He lived in an iron lung. He held a pencil with a fat eraser in his mouth, then tapped the keys on his typewriter, or later on, a keyboard on a computer, once those became popular in the 1980s.

Let My Words Touch You

No matter what’s happening in your writing, you and I don’t have that hurdle to overcome. O’Brien published many articles and essays – he worked as a journalist as well as a poet – and released three books of poetry. Watching this man write in The Sessions, I realized I would never be able to complain again about how hard it is to write.

Revision is another matter. I can’t even start to wonder how he managed that. But you won’t have your writing published without revising it. On the other hand, there’ll be no revising without the writing, simple first drafts.

So write now. Because you need to do it before something else might stop you.


March 5 is the birthday of Karen Stolz. Or it would be, if she were still alive. She was a writing teacher of mine in the years when I just started to study fiction. Karen passed away in 2011 at age 54, felled by heart failure. She had a big heart, enough to embrace people new to writing or new to fiction. She taught a class at St. Edwards attended by my brother-in-law Billy, a bank robber, gambler and storyteller extraordinaire. Billy’s stories arrived at my house inside letters from prison to my wife. Karen called him a good writer.

Billy was writing because he had nothing but time. Karen wrote her bestselling novel in stories, The World of Pies, because it was her time to move up from her short stories. Those stories got her into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

She moved back to her hometown in Kansas after her son graduated high school, where she taught writing at Pittsburg State. Karen had published a second novel by then, Fanny and Sue, and was working on a third, looking for a publisher.

Like anybody taken early from life, she figured she had more time to write. But unlike many writers, she wrote sooner – while her son was still in school – rather than later, when she’d have more time.

It was a smart choice, and one we can make for ourselves, too. Even if your writing is only blog entries right now, or 20 minutes at a time in a workshop meeting, choose to do it now. Let your voice be heard and enjoyed by the world.