Writing Time, Sacred Time

Writing Time, Sacred Time

Art class was like a religious ceremony for me. […] The instruments of work were sacred objects to me.  Joan Miró

Wherever two writers meet, the time –or rather, the lack of it–arises. “I could write much, much more if only I weren’t so busy” –says June, the Day Job Juggler. “Oh, sure”, says Peter, the Perpetual Procrastinator. “The only thing I really need to finish my novel is more time”.

Time is the enemy to be defeated; the barrier between us and our stories.Time is a woolly ball inside our creative pipes that prevent our best ideas from flowing freely. For most writers, time is nearly everything but sacred.

People have lost their sense of what’s sacred. For most of us life is a chain of similar days, none of them particularly memorable. Without rituals, without ceremonies, it’s no wonder that time seems to us a swarm of identical moments, all flying by. It’s no wonder that life –and creative life in particular– seems so meaningless sometimes.

Writers have to learn to think about their writing time as sacred, as a time to be honoured and separated from the rest of their everyday tasks and worries. Going to our studies and opening our laptops shouldn’t feel like another line in our daily planners to be erased as soon as it’s completed, it shouldn’t feel like “Oh, dear, writing time again. Just right now that I have all this receipts to check, and I really need to take the kid to the park because he’s driving me crazy, and shouldn’t I phone aunt Peggy to check how she’s coping with her new hip?”

When we trivialize our writing time and it’s not sacred anymore, writing loses its meaning and becomes something we do, instead of being something we love to do, a beacon that bathes our ordinary days in creative light.

Sacred writing time
Sacred writing time lights your ordinary days up

Create a ritual

A writing ritual, one that suits your personality, will help you throughout your creative life. When ideas are flowing, and you’re in the zone, your ritual will fuel you; when your Muse refuses to visit, and writer’s block is looming over you, your ritual will reassure you. Only make sure that you feel comfortable with your practice. My writing ritual includes vanilla scented candles, binaural music (which is said to boost creativity) and sitting at my desk at the same time, every day. For you, it might consist on running 5 miles, doing yoga, drinking black coffee or handwriting your first draft on a yellow legal paper. Whatever it works for you, do it!

Make time

The famous creativity coach, Dr. Eric Maisel says that people who want to create, make time. If you really want to write that novel, that poem, that story you’ll find the time. Maybe you don’t have three spare hours every day, but I’m sure you have 30 minutes right before lunchtime, or once your kids are safely in bed. I’ve been writing all my adult life and I’ve discovered that one hour a day is my minimum to feel like I’m moving forward with my writing projects while managing my business and my private life at the same time. All I have to do is blocking that hour (from 6.00 to 7.00 a.m.) every day in my calendar. After 7.00 I move on to other tasks, but I still feel I’m a writer.

We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. 

Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

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A Marathon of Words

A Marathon of Words

We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 metres. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. (Emile Zatopek)

5.30 a. m. My alarm clock goes off. It’s dark and cold outside and my bed has never felt so warm and cosy. I stretch my arm outside the duvet —gosh, it’s really cold—and reach for the alarm clock. 5.40 already. Now, I’ve got this marathon to run so I really should be up by now.

I finally manage to get myself out of the comforting embrace of my bed. Sitting on it, I look for my gear: a pair of sweatpants, a warm sweatshirt —not matching, of course. I am still fashion conscious—. Now, where have I put those darned…fluffy slippers? Yeah! Have you second-guessed that I am a runner? No way! The only time I ever run is to catch the bus!

I am taking part in a marathon, though. Only mine isn’t about kilometres, hamstring cramps and sore feet. It’s about thousands of words, hand cramps and, once in a while, a faltering self-confidence. I am not a runner. I am a writer.

For me, as for most writers, writing can feel like running the longest, most demanding run ever. As if we were athletes, we have to be committed to our intention to write, visualize our finished stories, show up every day, train hard, cheer up ourselves (and, sometimes, other fellow writers who really need some rah-rah to keep going), fall, get up again, and give everything we have for the sake of getting our stories out of our heads and onto the paper.

Writing, as running, has its ups and downs. Sometimes, discipline wavers, and we don’t feel like working. Some days our writing sucks, our mental muscles ache, we’re not in the zone, and we have to battle with words and ideas. We’re tempted to call it a day, and go watching some gossip TV programme.

Write as if you were a marathon runner
“Writing is its own reward” – Henry Miller

But, just as it is for runners, there’s a huge reward waiting for the writer who perseveres. When you outline your book, keep your writing schedule, sit at your desk every day and honour the gift you’ve been given, that of being able to use words to bring ideas, people and entire worlds to life you feel like a super hero, you rise above those who don’t write. It’s this simple, this magically empowering.

In his book Born to Run, Christopher McDougall writes about human beings being natural runners, and while I’m not sure I’ve been born to run, I’m sure there are people who’ve been born to write: those who feel the itching of a story wanting to be told, those who get lost in their worlds of words, losing track of time, those who keep on writing when it’s bliss and when it’s hell.

To such people, I can only say, keep on writing. Not all your writing days will be perfect, but all of them will be worthy. Running this marathon of words is worthy.