One word at a time. One greasy, fat, hairy, finger-lickin’, pecked-out and hunted word at a time. That’s how stories are written. Unfortunately, I have stopped pecking at those words most days. You know the one million books and blog posts you have read about the best way to be good at your passion is to practice and to be persistent? How writing is built bird by bird? My tired fingers have been spending more time in dish soap than building birds.
But, really, it is all about excuses. Excuses and placing a value on what I love. I take my passion and I push it aside in the name of other things that “matter.” Even if you aren’t a writer, I bet you know me. In one second, you can probably tell me the thing that you claim is your passion but that you put aside in the name of the “shoulds.”
In my busy life, writing has become the expendable action. It has become my luxury item, the first thing to be chopped, instead of my requirement. It is the icing on the day, if I get to it, instead of the start to it.
I don’t make the excuses because I am lazy. I actually err on the side of a work ethic that makes the Puritans look weak. I make excuses because, in the end, I feel the need to place my time where the value is … and I am not clear on how I define value … money doesn’t come from the writing. At least, not from “heart-writing,” not from this blog. So I put my hands back in the soap and scrub on. There are bills, dishes, sports practices, homework, and laundry. They don’t wait; they don’t pay. I value them, though, because I give them my time.
Maybe that is the way it should be. Ultimately, it makes the most sense for a rational and reasonable life.
But, then again, maybe it doesn’t. Why can’t I value something which may not keep me fit, help my family, and not make money? Why can’t I justify working a passion into a stuffed day, valuing it over something else? I will never grow dreds, leave my kids, buy a camper-van and live down by the river writing in a journal all day, of course. But maybe it is OK to value my passion over something else just every now and again?
One day another local author emailed me. She had read something I wrote for the local magazine and she reached out – could we get together and support one another, perhaps? Perhaps, yes.
Four months later I was chasing the sunset west through my big, broad county, racing to a Community College conference room filled with unknowables. It was My Writing Group.
I had made so many excuses for committing to this (yet again). I am so busy; I can barely find time for the people I already love and have; I am so tired; I should be cleaning. So many things to get in the way.
Plus, I didn’t want to be a leader of something else. I have my family that I lead, my job that I am slowly growing into, and my missions organization I founded that is relentless. I didn’t need something else to tend – like a writing group.
But, in truth, I realized I simply wasn’t valuing it. So I looked myself in the face, stretched out of that Comfort Zone, and decided to value my passion this month and see what happened. Ultimately, my struggle with my writing, with leading a writing group, with removing myself from my house every Monday night, was not one with schedules and energy. It was one of identity.
While I thought I had identified myself as a writer, the truth was that I hadn’t. My passion, my art, was valued lower than everything else in my life until it was valued at zero.
I had claimed my identity as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a church-goer, a yogi, a reader, a runner and a traveler. I had embraced those and I do them unapologetically. I perform these things bravely and to the best of my ability.
But my writing didn’t have value because I wasn’t allowing it and I hadn’t placed it on me as an identity. In order for it to take time away from my other roles, I believed I had to provide proof that the time was worth it. I had to submit to every website, constantly conquer a new publication, and get the bylines. I had to be in the show. I had to prove that my passion project wasn’t the misplaced daydream of a scared, shy and disillusioned mom. Yet I had to prove that it is allowable to identify as a writer while not winning a Nobel Prize and becoming the next Faulkner.
When it comes to passions, fellow parents and friends, we have to let it come out of us the way it was meant to be, but we have to let it out. And we should always value it. While our passions may not make the beds and they may not keep the lights on, they are worth more than any 9-to-5 will ever be. We may not identify ourselves as artists, but our arts create our identity. Art (whether it is writing, scrapbooking, guitar, singing in the shower, sewing, painting) they allow us to discover who we are deep down. Our passions help us release and learn ourselves. We don’t find that in dish soap.
I know I don’t have a book in me and I don’t have a particular theme. But my writing is me. Virginia Woolf wrote essays about marks on the wall and because of her we understand a time in history, the agony and struggle of societal norms way back when. We see her; we know her.
Maybe, one day, someone will stumble on these words, on my art and passion, and we will know each other and they will realize they are not alone. That one person is all it will take for me to claim that my writing has value.
The art that helps me discover myself may, one day, help others discover me in a meaningful way, more than we ever could in the grocery line. And, more important, my art may help someone else discover themselves.
Who knows where the value ultimately is, but I have decided that passion projects should be valued more.
Plus, I organized a Writing Group. We meet Mondays, and it has a lot of value.
This challenge was designed in September 2015 by me, to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to force myself to try new things, to learn to embrace my life, to take a situation where I was feeling sad and lonely and force a new perspective. I was feeling stagnant but I realized it was my own fault. There is way too much fun, adventure, laughter and good people in the world for me to feel sad. I didn’t have true goals when I started: just to get out of self-pity and to get in the middle of the road and rush straight forward.