A few months ago I made a decision for my own personal creative life. When I was younger I used to write fiction all the time. I would obsess over new ideas for stories (most of them had something to do with magic), and I loved it. I remember walking home from school daydreaming about plot possibilities and character names. I couldn’t wait to get back to my computer. Inspiration bubbled in my periphery as I slept.
I stopped writing somewhere around grade nine. Instead, all of my attention turned to boys and to getting a good grade in math (groan!). University wasn’t really any different. I only wrote if I knew that my effort would be worth something (ie a grade). Although I still enjoyed writing, I’d lost whatever that thing was that drove me to write through my fear of failure in elementary and middle school.
Then I moved to Vancouver and my boyfriend encouraged me to start a blog. I started writing tons of non-fiction. I fell back in love with the craft, but at the same time I was steering myself further and further away from storytelling and poetry (the forms I loved so much as a child). My blog became instrumental in the writing and editorial opportunities that I’ve attracted into my life so far… but I still didn’t feel completely fulfilled. I needed to write stories again.
I didn’t act on this gut-feeling immediately. I waited for the perfect opportunity: A time when my schedule opened up and everything was “just right.” A couple of months went by. Nothing.
Then one of my peers, during one of my creative accountability meetings, started talking about how his morning ritual started at 5:00am. This got me thinking. While 5:00am seemed a little bit early, 5:30am didn’t feel so bad. If I could get up at that time every morning, I would be able to get SO much done! So for an entire week I jumped out of bed at 5:30am and completed all of the morning ritual style healthy habits I had ever wanted to do in my life. I was exercising, meditating, journalling, putting a little extra effort into my appearance, and packing my lunch into cute little containers. For an entire week I found myself locking the front door and heading toward the elevator by 8:00am. By 8:30am I was at the cutest little coffee shop by my work, and from 8:45-9:45am I was writing. For an entire week I waltzed into my office by 10:00am feeling accomplished and on top of the world.
On top of the world… and yet I dreaded that hour of uninterrupted creative writing. I’m generally a pretty focused person, but during that hour I’ll admit to doing a lot of squirming. I also spent a lot of time circling my mouse longingly over the internet icon (no internet was one of my rules). Sometimes I would get some good work done, but most of the time I was just killing time with garbage writing. Paragraphs and paragraphs of garbage, and a relieved smile when the hour was up.
The next week I only made it to the coffee shop 4 out of the 7 days. The following week I only made it there 3 out of 7, and then 1. Now, I’m ashamed to admit, I haven’t followed through on this commitment in over 3 weeks. In my defence I have been travelling… and yet I know that if I had truly committed to finding the time, I would have found the time.
Where did I go wrong?
I just finished reading an abridged version of Virginia Woolf’s diary (lovingly edited by Leonard Woolf), and was struck by the way she spoke about her artistic process. She loved the process of making up a story. Maybe this sounds completely ridiculous, but somehow I had forgotten that this is what I was doing. Writing is a form of make believe. How had I forgotten this?
In one of her earlier entries she said this:
“As I write, there rises somewhere in my head that queer and very pleasant sense of something which I want to write; my own point of view.”
And there lies two of Virginia Woolf’s main reasons for writing. Her joy in the process of make believe, and her desire to express herself through writing.
I somewhat satisfy the need to express myself through this website and my own personal blog, but the need to create fiction has been missing for a number of years. I thought that jumping back in would be easy, but it’s not. Writing means a lot to me, and with that comes a lot of fear.
Cultivating a writing habit is going to take discipline and effort. I’m not always going to love it, but when I fall asleep at night I know I’ll experience a sense of peace knowing that I fulfilled my purpose… at least for that day.
So I’m going to try again. Round two starts today.
Latest posts by Christine Bissonnette (see all)
- A conversation about belonging at the Vancouver Writer’s Fest - October 28, 2015
- Creativity is our common language – it is how we communicate what we are afraid to say as ourselves - September 10, 2015
- “I left something important at home during week 1 at the National Voice Intensive” – entry by Christine Bissonnette - May 22, 2015