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Notes from LTUE panel: The Writing Life

My final panel of today was The Writing Life. On the panel with me were Julie Wright, Berin Stevens, and Angie Lofthouse. It was one of those panels where I scribble down notes, not only to help me remember what I wanted to say, but also because other panelists said things I want to remember. It was also one of those panels where I say things which I then have to write down because somehow the act of talking about living a writing life reshaped my thoughts in new ways, then the new thoughts spilled out of my mouth.

I knew before the panel began that I wanted to mention the inevitable break down of systems. Creative people get very excited and enthusiastic about their goals and plans for achieving those goals. When the plans fall apart three days later, they get very discouraged and are inclined to give up. The thing is to pick up the pieces and make a new system based on what you learn from the old one. Through iterations of this process a writer can find what works for her. Then life changes and iterations begin again.

The other panelists made excellent points about finding your priorities, setting goals, and scheduling time. I particularly liked the statement that writers need to not wait around for writing to be convenient. Time is made, not found laying around. Several panelists discussed getting up early, writing on work breaks, or staying up late. There was also much discussion of sacrifice, specifically giving up things like television and video games in order to make time for writing. We also touched on the importance of community. I loved all these thoughts and nodded agreement while scribbling notes.

Then I found myself thinking of fractals. The defining attribute of a fractal is that the large pattern is repeated when you zoom close to any particular part of the fractal. As you get closer and closer you see the same pattern ever smaller. Our lives are fractal. We don’t have to make our whole lives meaningful, but if we make each day balanced and good then the larger pattern will reflect that. I seized a microphone to share this insight and ended up talking about the five things I am still trying to put into my life daily. Every person will have different things, but the point is to try to balance each day so that priority items are front and center.

Since this was a symposium at a religious university, the authors on the panel with me shared that they often begin their writing sessions with prayer. They talked about how this calmed them and that they felt it inspired their writing sessions. I think this is a marvelous idea and I intend to try it.

A question was asked about specific practicalities of making time for writing. The truth is that I don’t always make time for it. There is a level of guilt attached to writing because sometimes I have to sacrifice things which are more important than television or video games. Sometimes it is a choice between writing and doing the laundry. It seems like a no-brainer, who likes laundry. But I know that if the laundry does not get done, then the next morning’s school scramble will be awful which will lead to a cascading failure of day. There are times when laundry is more important than writing and I choose it. Or I choose some other thing in my life. Other times I choose writing. Each day has its own answer and the only way I can find the right answer for today is to be in touch with my own priorities and inspiration. This is where my five daily things are so critically important. They center me in the priorities of my life. Often I discover that, contrary to what guilt would have me believe, writing first makes the laundry easier.

The panel wrapped up on the thought that sometimes what we have to sacrifice for writing are our own neuroses. We have to relinquish control of some things. We have to be willing to let kids do jobs poorly or to let them struggle and fail. We have to be willing to emotionally untangle ourselves from dramas which we can’t really solve, but which sap our energy. We have to find ways to allow ourselves to not be perfect. This can be very hard.

It was a really good discussion and I am glad I got to participate.

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