I’m a fan of Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s blog and online writing groups. She often posts thought-provoking material via her blog and email newsletter.
Yesterday’s email touched on the topic of building “white space” into our days. That is, allowing ourselves time in our schedules to daydream. And, she thinks giving ourselves that time can help us better prepare for the unexpected, like an illness or emergency.
Her email hit my inbox during a time when I’m questioning a lot of my recent choices.
In September 2016, I started a part-time job at my local library. The job doesn’t pay a lot, but it doesn’t need to. My spouse is fortunate to have a good-paying job that covers our expenses. My part-time work is to give us a little cushion in the budget. And, perhaps more importantly, to help me feel less like a loser for not working.
I have this sense of guilt about my employment status. If I had a full-time job like she does, we could save more for retirement. Remodel our house faster. Vacation more often. And I wouldn’t be as worried about what happens to us if she loses her job.
You see, I’m a worrier from way back. I’m that person who doesn’t get enough sleep because she’s running through all the possible disasters that could occur. My fertile imagination–that gift for a writer–is also a curse when it runs amok.
And yet. Since starting that job, my writing time has suffered. A lot. I’ve set several personal goals to finish revisions on my WIP. I didn’t meet any of them.
I partly excuse my failures by admitting honestly that the political landscape and fallout from the 2016 presidential election has really shocked me to my core. It blindsided me, and I found writing felt frivolous. Writing a romance novel, which some dismiss as escapism or fluff, seems harder now that new crises arise seemingly daily. If not several times a day.
I thought about shelving that book and starting a work that’s more timely, but I haven’t any idea what that might be.
Also, this romance is only my second novel-length manuscript. The first manuscript I wrote I never tried to revise.
Walking away from this one feels like I’m giving up. Doing my work as a writer means pushing my way through a lot of revisions. I can tell it has flaws, and I’m not sure how to fix them.
So I dither. Do I stick with this project or start something new?
And all the while, I let my schedule at the library fill up the blank spaces I need to work. I get Jen off to the train, feed the cats, and do some chores. Then it’s time to write. Except I’ll have to stat getting ready for work in a half hour, so why bother?
Or, I ignore the chores and then feel guilty that I spent time researching my project when dishes and laundry need to be done. From there, it’s a short walk to the roller coaster of berating myself for the frivolity of my writing time when I should really be working a full-time job like every other grownup in her mid-forties does.
I might be halfway good at this writing gig, if I only gave myself time and space to work. And believed in myself half as much as Jen believes in me.
I’ll close this by saying I hope other wordsmiths, creatives, and artists can find the courage to be gentle with themselves. Allow yourself to take risks. Allow yourself to make mistakes. And give yourself the time and space you need to do your best work.