I always thought if I found the perfect place to write, I could be a writer. If only I had an office to dedicate to writing, I could write.
Now I’ve had my very own cozy office in my very own home for well over a year, and well the light just isn’t right and I need some art on the walls. Plus I need a more comfy chair and maybe a plant or two or perhaps a different desk or maybe a cabin in the desert or maybe a different life, ughhh!
If you want to write, you should be able to do it anywhere. You should be able to write in the back of a bus, in a noisy cafe, in your bathtub… Cultivating that perfect space is just another distraction to avoid writing.
Many years ago I took a writing workshop with my desert-writer-adventurer hero, Craig Childs, and he actually suggested writing while driving. “Look for a stretch where nothing is going to happen…” he said.
What he was trying to pound into our wish-we-could-write-like-the-wind brains was to simply write when you can. Nobody has endless time to write so you need to be writing every spare second even when you don’t want to and even when it is all just an undisciplined, sloppy bucket of chaos.
In an interview with Douglas Coupland, he said, “I’m happier when I’m writing on an airplane…”
Funny how the place I am most called to write is in the middle of a trail run. All I want to do is plunk down in the middle of the trail and write my little heart out. By the time I’ve returned home the writing stoke is gone and all I want to do is take a hot bath and a nap.
I’ve taken to speaking into my notes app on my phone breathlessly mid-run or just stopping all together typing away in the middle of the trail because I don’t want to forget an idea or a phrase or a thought. It is so rare that I am overpowered by this desire to write that I must stop whatever I am doing and let the words spew out my thumbs into a tiny device.
Why is it that when we want to write and create more than anything, we avoid it at all costs? My desk is never tidier and my house is never cleaner than when I’m trying to sit down to write. Hell I will spend hours weeding the garden (and I hate yard work!) to avoid putting words to the page.
Why is that the thing I want to do the most, I can’t half the time make myself do?
Pretty sure Elizabeth Gilbert hit this issue right on the noggin’ in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear:
me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to
live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re
afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood
or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your
creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid
somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else
already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so
it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you
won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically,
emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life.
You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday
you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste
of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind
of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work
space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on
invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of
training or degree. You’re afraid you’re too fat. (I don’t know what
this has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me
that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the
anxiety list, for good measure.) You’re afraid of being exposed as a
hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist. You’re afraid of
upsetting your family with what you may reveal. You’re afraid of what
your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth
aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really
don’t want to encounter your innermost demons. You’re afraid your best
work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin
with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now
you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re
afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went
well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again.
You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why
bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder. You’re afraid of
being a no-hit wonder.”