Are you embarrassed to identify yourself as a writer? Have you had family or friends express concern over your writerly tendancies?
By the end of this post I hope to have changed your mind, and theirs.
Shaping Your Life as a Writer
Today I’ve got a guest post on Sharon Lippincott’s blog The Heart and Craft of Life Writing. Over the past couple of weeks Sharon and I have been discussing the intriguing abilities a writer has to write their own life – either after the event or even before the event.
It all started with a post she published entitled Write Where the Juice Is. In it she wrote about how doing scandalous things in your life provides your descendants with something to talk about when you’re gone. This seemed to me a fascinating way to approach life.
In the comments to that post, Sharon presented an even more fascinating way to live as a writer: by shaping your life for the page. In other words, deliberately making choices in your life that will provide you with writing fodder down the track. (I mention the whole comment in my guest post if you’re interested in reading it.)
Sharon and I discussed the idea in more depth together, which led to her post Living to Write the Tale and my post Writing as Fertilizer for Memory Seeds. Both of them are practical posts which got me thinking about our view of the writing life.
The Old Concept of the Writing Life
Over the centuries, the clichés of the writing life have built up. They sound something like the following:
Writers are recluses, socially inept people who are introverts (and can even turn into hermits if they are not monitored).
They ponder on things deeply, making them boring party companions and even worse spouses. They earn little and spend most of their time battling with writer’s block. They drink unhealthy amounts of coffee and while away their afternoons on park benches.
When things go badly, they become melancholic, turn to alcohol and eventually end up mentally unbalanced or contemplating suicide.
Perhaps I’m taking every negative thing ever said and rolling it into one, but you know you’ve heard this stereotype before.
This concept of the writing life leads friends and family writers to fear for their loved one’s mental and emotional safety. They envision a life stunted of excitement and career growth. They may even believe that to be a writer is equivalent to throwing one’s life away.
Surely in this day and age we can envision a fresh concept.
The New Concept of the Writing Life
What if we began to view the writing life like this:
A writer is a person who embraces life – who seeks to experience it in all its colours, complexities and inconsistencies in order to capture it on paper. They absorb information through all their senses, and constantly search for fresh sources of inspiration.
They make wonderful party companions because they seek to understand other people’s points of view. They enrich the lives of those they are close to by earning people’s friendship and respect. They spend most of their time jotting down ideas and words – after which they reward themselves with chocolate and walks in the park.
When things go badly, they find fresh perspectives and turn negatives into positives. They are hardy people, who make the world a better place with their words.
This describes the writers I have met. Does it describe you?
Why not make the writing life into something joyous, something we can aspire to? Something that will promise a lifetime of promise rather than inevitable demise?
Instead of portraying ourselves as hard done by, ruled by the page and wracked with writer’s block, why not release ourselves into a lifelong journey of wonder as we search for the experiences and places that will eventually lead to words and stories?
Let your life as a writer create a compelling vision of enjoyment and a lifetime of fascination with the world and people around you.
You are a writer. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Grab the title with both hands and live your life like a writer!