“If you want to write, stop qualifying yourself for every other job that is not writing. You need to search for more areas in which you are underqualified. That is humbling, isn’t it?” ~ Heather Sellers
I’m continuing to read, slowly and steadily, Heather Sellers’ Page after Page, and it rewards me each day with new perspectives on my writing and new ideas for where to go from here, as well as some effective writing exercises.
Where is “here” for me, exactly?
Well, first of all, in terms of writing, I’m not where I was one year ago.
A year ago, I decided to take the 2009-10 year off from teaching to focus on my writing. It was our son’s first year in college, so I would have more time at home to write than ever before. I thought (correctly, in hindsight) that this personal change for me and the statement it made about the importance of my writing career would be a good balance to the nostalgia I would feel for when there were three of us living here.
In the past year, I attended a writing conference, where I forced myself to sign up for two pitch sessions so as to practice speaking confidently about my work (one of those sessions led to getting an agent). I finished and had published two non-fiction books for and about teens. I wrote a work of historical fiction for children. I began in earnest the transcription project of my great-aunt’s diaries, and I have recently settled on the form and general direction of my own writing project that will be based on her diaries. I started and am continuing two blogs (three, if I include the blog of my great-aunt’s “posts”).
Most important, I am writing every single day, for the first time in a long, long time.
Now, I am going back to teaching in the fall—just one evening course, but it will still mean a change in schedule, class prep, grading, etc. I’m lucky to teach at a college that has a terrific art museum, where I have been a docent, so I took a docent refresher course yesterday so that I could return to that, as well. I’ll be helping out with a homeschool literature and writing group that I have worked with in the past and have missed, and tutoring a very dear young friend in writing.
I want to do all of these things, and for very good, healthy reasons: community, professional affiliation, being with young people, personal stimulation, to have a place or room of my own that is separate from family, and just plain old getting out of the house.
But I will admit I’m nervous. In the past, I haven’t always found a good balance of doing too much and doing too little. I tend to swing from one extreme to another, overloading myself to the point of feeling completely overwhelmed, then quitting everything at once, only to start the process over again once I feel underwhelmed.
How will I know when my non-writing life is becoming an excuse not to write, not to continue this journey I undertook so faithfully last year?
I guess I’ll have to wait and see, but I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on how you balance writing and non-writing life. What works for you? What doesn’t? How do you qualify yourself for writing?