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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Til Death Us Do Part

I'm currently working on a writing book, and one chapter is based on one of the very first quotes I stumbled across when I began to pursue writing seriously. "Either marry your writing (write every day) or date it (write only when you want), but know which you are choosing and the repercussions of both." (I have searched and searched and found no one to attribute this quote to - if you know, please share.)

Make a Commitment.

If you truly want to do something with your writing, you need to make a commitment. You need to "marry your writing". That means writing every day whether you 'feel' like it or not.

It means:
For better or worse (even on the crappy days),
For richer or poorer (yeah, probably poorer - unless you keep your day job, too),
In sickness and in health (sometimes your writing can take care of you when you're sick. Plus, you don't have to get dressed or leave the house),
Til death do us part.

I've been thinking a lot about that last one recently. My best friend and writing partner, Debbie, died suddenly last week. At first I couldn't face writing because I was working on a draft that was covered with her notes and fresh with memories of our brainstorming. But I know Debbie wouldn't have wanted to be the reason I stopped writing. So I've been struggling to take baby steps each day with my writing goals. Because my vow wasn't to her - I can't stop writing because she did (maybe now she has all the time she wants to write?) - my vow is to MY writing. Even while I grieve, I need to carry on and keep working toward my goals.

I think that along the road of life (excuse me while I wax poetic), we all encounter 'deaths' - the loss of friends, jobs, book deals, and more. Sometimes those can be hard hits to our motivation to write. But, if you're truly committed to being a writer, you need to keep writing. It's like getting thrown from a horse. The best thing you can do is to get back on and keep, riding. Because if you don't, the permission to stop for a day or two can turn into a week or two, and then a month or two, until you have to start all over building that daily practice again.

How do I know this?

Because last September, another very close friend and writing partner died suddenly. It was months before I pushed myself to return to writing. I lost my momentum on the book I was writing and still haven't been able to return to fiction. So Debbie and I worked out a plan where we'd meet every week and I would set writing goals to get myself back on track. We'd meet at a local coffee house, and we'd share how our week had been, if we'd met our writing goals, what our challenges were (read: excuses), and then set new goals for the next week. Many of those conversations were fodder for the writing book I'm working on now (titled, strangely enough, Face the Page). The last time I saw her was at my most recent writing workshop. It was the first time I used the "Marry Your Writing" topic, and our exercise was to write our vows.

I know if Debbie was here, she'd gently but very insistently remind me of those vows, and help me keep them.

Time to practice what I preach, right?


Nicole Maggi said...

Writing (creating art) in the face of grief is one of the greatest acts of courage I can think of. I KNOW Debbie would want you to continue on and move forward. You honor your memory by doing so.
I never formally proposed to my writing or wrote down my vows or married it in front of a justice of the peace, but at some point I just knew that I was done dating it and had to commit. I think writing down vows can be a really powerful tool, and something you can look back on during dark times to remind you of the relationship you have with your writing.
Thanks for posting, and RIP Debbie.

Barb said...

I committed to my writing a number of years ago, without formal vows (I guess it was sort of a common-law marriage) so it came as a surprise to me that the vows had such an impact. My plan is to rewrite them smaller and put them inside a teeny little glass bottle and use it as a talisman. I put a wire loop on it so I could put it on a cord along with some other totems and talismans I've been collecting and will hang it near my writing area as a reminder and inspiration.