5 Benefits of the Writer’s Life



Flickr Image via Creative Commons by  Fredrik Rubensson

Flickr Image via Creative Commons by Fredrik Rubensson

1. When you’re not writing - and are naturally pre-occupied with your quotidian life - you are forced to become present so you can remember it all and write about it later.  Additionally, despite stereotypes to the contrary, a writer is greatly served by improving their mental and physical health.  Living with clarity of mind is one of the hardest, but most rewarding, and overlooked, aspects of the writer’s life.

2. When you’re writing you get to dive deep into a subterranean emotional world, a world of cosmic energies, that normally, people too preoccupied by the maintenance of life, cannot go to.  When you get your writing “right”, you get to make others feel what you’ve felt.  Bridging this gap between self and other, living in this interdependent way, is one of the most thrilling imaginative relationships a writer can have.  (For the extremely introverted it may be one of the most thrilling relationships, period.)  It’s what keeps the chase alive too because it’s so very, very hard to achieve.

3. When you revise you get to be a builder.  Getting in there and tinkering with sentence, moving words around, moving one paragraph to the top and deleting another…it’s like putting together a building, you get to figure out how a sentence is constructed, what the fabric of the building needs to thrive.

4. This is the best bit - you get to read! And better still you become a better reader.

5. And then you start the cycle all over again - it all works in a glorious harmony.

How Can A Writer Begin A Project?

Image via  Suzanne Schroeter  and is a Flickr Creative Commons Lisence

Image via Suzanne Schroeter and is a Flickr Creative Commons Lisence


“He began watching and questioning his own experience, and writing down what he observed.

At first, this mainly meant following his personal enthusiasms, especially stories from his reading: tales from Ovid, histories from Caesar and Tacitus, biographical snippets from Plutarch, and advice on how to live from Seneca and Socrates.  Then he wrote down stories he heard from friends, incidents from the day-to-day life of the estate, cases that had lodged in his mind from his years in law and politics, and oddities he had seen on his (so far limited) travels.  These were his modest beginnings.”

-How to Live: A life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer by Sarah Bakewell


If my creative life had a mantra this week it would be “contrast”.  On Saturday our family hosted a party for ten children.  Those of you who have party-aged kids will know it was pretty high-energy.  On Wednesday our daughter was part of a neighborhood parade of hand-made lanterns called St. Martin’s Day, a traditional children’s holiday in German.  The week before we’d gone to her kindergarten to help her make a hot-pink dragon with purple glitter.  


Here’s the contrast bit: my writing life is quiet.  Though I don’t know yet what it is, I feel on the cusp of a new project.  Its details are still a mystery to me, but I sense I need a new way of working.


It’s too easy in creative life to be preoccupied with movement of thought.  I read about a book a week.  I keep a podcast on while I’m cooking or cleaning.  And of course I write.  Writing isn’t just about the time it takes to put words to paper.  It’s the movement of thought before-hand.  


But something is missing in that mix.  That something I think is life itself.  Without unfiltered experience there’s no material to write with.  So my creative goal this week is a non-doing.  I will commit to chunks of time when I look as clearly as possible at my environment and experience.  I think of it as a writer’s meditation.  As beautiful as getting to know your life when sitting is, as a writer I’m interested in getting to know the texture of my life as it’s lived.  That’s the grist for my creative mill.  I hope that, paradoxically, quieting my writer’s mind I will unearth the deepest layer of material for a writer: not the movement of thought but the movement of life.

Writer. Mother. Two Heads. One person.

Image Credit:  Kate Hiscock

Image Credit: Kate Hiscock

I’d say Sara Rule’s new book 100 Essays I Don't Have Time To Write is quirky but she has a whole chapter on how she hates the word quirky so I’ll just say it’s really, really good.  And unique.  I read it late last night in one sitting.  She’s got that lovely combination of a really personal voice and something to say.  There’s anecdotes about how she lives with her dual identity as a mother-writer that made me proverbially shout “Me too!”  Here’s an example from a story about when she takes her daughter to an Orthodox Jewish apartment in Brooklyn to get rid of her lice.


    “And I think, as I’m surrounded by teeming life — parasites, fish, and children — I think,         So, you thought you wanted to observe life?  Motherhood shakes her head, clenches her     fists, and demands, No, you must live it.”


Since my daughter was born I have been besieged with questions. I can’t find tiny socks. there is always a diaper to change, a tear to wipe away, a meal to make.  But I seriously did not think I would be capable of living with what sometimes feels like a split-personality: the writer-mother duality.


But I don’t have just two full-time jobs but three. I know it sounds crude, but basically it goes like this: An artist makes their content; they find their audience; they sell their content; they persuade their audience to shut out the noise around them; and then sort of make them fall in love — or at least share the artist’s work with other people.  


When not writing, producing, shooting photographs, designing, or whatever your creative day job may be.  You’ve got to to buy materials.  You’ve got to make phone calls.  You are PR, Marketing, Design, Admin, etc.  In my case, the person one who writes this sentence, and the one who built this website are completely different people — and they’re also both me.  They’re like chalk and cheese.  Or like motherhood and the writing life.


I search for socks.  I watch video tutorials about Twitter.  I write.  I look for the socks again.  We say “She wears many hats.”  I’m not sure about the hats.  I feel like I have many heads — and they’ve all got a headache.

How Can You Make Work and Play One and The Same?

It's frustrating being a mother with an arts practice. My kids are still under my feet 24 hours a day, so I have the sinking feeling the thousands of creative plates are a figment of my imagination.  For whatever reason I've always wanted to share this work and that's become so, so much harder to achieve since motherhood.  That's why I've often chosen work like writing over the dishes and laundry.  At times it's been liberating at others an oppressive mix of untended to responsibilities.  But recently I asked myself this question

The question kept running in my mind as I watched my kids play.  They "help" me fold the laundry, they make mud pies, they get dressed, they listen to stories.  All these things seem to happen seamlessly.  For them, getting dressed is an act of make believe as much as mud pies.  That's when the light bulb went off and I said to myself

So that's my question to you today.  When did you learn to draw lines across the many tasks of life?  Who taught you to put work in one box and play in another?  If these questions resonate with you I highly recommend Tara Sophia Moore's book Playing Big.