What Writing Costs

It’s something a lot of writers have difficulty with: finding time to write. Liana Brooks once made a list of the various things she would have to do in order to call her day a success – and how guilty she feels taking time away from all those things in order to write.

Another friends of my reached the crossroads at about a similar time, and had to decide – was writing worth saying no to other things for? Did she have the courage it takes to make that step of committment and say yes, writing is my job, and I will treat it like one – even when that meant treading on the toes of others who thought that because she wasn’t getting paid, it wasn’t a job?

It’s an interesting thought, really. And sometimes – let’s face it, most of the time – it’s much easier to give in, to join the plaguers and doubters (well-intentioned though they may be), and say, “You know what? You’re right. Writing isn’t paying, and no one cares if I do it or not; but people sure as heck care if dinner isn’t on the table, or the clothes aren’t ironed, so I’ll go do that.”

I’ve done it.

I’m doing it. I’ve been home for an hour, now, and have gotten as far as opening my document.

I think a part of this is the procrastination that’s somewhat inherent in writing: the procrastination that’s part fear – of the blank page, of imperfection, of the hard work that writing is – and part necessary-brain-stewing time.

But a lot of it isn’t.

Part of it stems from the difference in meaning between two words:

Urgent. Important.

Urgent, as Liana so succintly put it, is the toddler on the lap screaming that she wants icecream right now; important is making sure said toddler has regular, healthy meals as the parent sees fit.

Urgent is the husband shooting daggers at you from across the room because, for the tenth morning in a row, he’s had to iron his own shirt; important is the knowledge that he loves you regardless, and that you haven’t written a thing in three weeks.

Or is it?

I guess that begs the question: how important is writing to you? Will you make sacrifices for it? Do you even want to? Are you happy with it being just a play-thing, a toy you break out when you feel like it?

If you do, that’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if, like me, you are aiming eventually for publication – and, dare I add, the desire for writing to be your day job – there has to be something more.

Things are only worth what they cost you : The best things in life are free.

It’s an eternal paradox, that one, but one that’s oh-so-true. Writing is as free as breathing – you don’t need pen and paper to write, or a fancy laptop; just your brain to compose with, and remember – and for those of us that are addicted to it, it definitely qualifies for one of life’s best things.

But it’s only worth what it costs you. It’s only worth what you put in. Love is generally touted as one of those ‘best things’, along with things like happy moments, stopping to smell the roses, holding a child’s hand…

But those things cost you.

Love is hard. It’s rewarding, but it is hard. Happy moments cost you: you have to put the energy in to get the happiness out. Disagree? How many happy moments have you had when you’re flat-out drained and exhausted, hmm? Stopping to smell the roses – time is money. Holding a child’s hand? Even setting aside the sticky candy that’s coating said child’s hand, arm, face, clothing, and your expensive wool suit, what about the cost of parenting? Of aunty- or uncle-ing? The cost, that is, of having a relationship?

Because relationships, like love, cost.

Back to writing, and the age-old adage, you get out what you put in. Where does writing fit into your life? Is it something you feel guilty about, like a dirty habit or a self-indulgence that takes you away from your ‘real’ work? Or is it something, like a relationship, that you’re committed to, something that you’re willing to sacrifice for, work hard for – and even defend?

As for me, I made the decision that I wanted to do this in early 2007. It’s been a tough road, and I’m sure it will continue to be. I’ve used all the excuses to put it away, shove it aside, to convince myself it’s not important. I’ve listened every now and then to those who tell me it’s a waste of time. And a lot of time has been eaten away by uni, something which has been extremely urgent at times, but often not actually important. That’s been frustrating. And then I finished, and the temptation was there to kick back and relax, never mind about writing, because it doesn’t matter.

But I want writing to matter. I want to make this work, and that means putting in the hard yards now, not just as and when I feel like it. It means me, making a committment to write, every single day, rain-hail-or-shine, because it’s a relationship that I’m going to make work. I’m going to be a writer.

And that, my friends, starts with writing. Just one word after another.

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