A couple of days ago I wrote about Showing Up. It’s a concept that has been on my mind for a while. I relate it to commitment. After challenging someone last year who was in a position of power and practiced favoritism I came up with my own definition of commitment: keeping your word, showing up, and being present.
I also wrote about how showing up to me means coming to the page everyday. Coming to the page to me is my journal, my notepad where I write my poems, this laptop I’m writing on, the unread books and magazines and newspapers stacked up in my room, the two manuscripts I’m slowly working on.
I’ve been having trouble showing up. I’ve not shown up everyday like I used to. And I have not kept a commitment with a magazine recently. So, the concept is something I still have to remind myself about, battle, live, and the tips below are helpful and applicable to all writers; that means me too!
1. Claim Yourself A Writer
Last weekend I ran into a young woman re-reading Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things for the third time. We talked about the book and her studies in literature. Then I asked her a question that brought out a common answer that I don’t like:
“Are you a writer?” I said.
“I want to be a writer,” she said.
“Do you write?” I said.
“I write short stories,” she said.
“Then you’re a writer,” I said.
If you write you are a writer! You are a writer because you not only want to be one, or say you are one, you do the work to be one: you sit and write. The young woman I write of above is a writer; part of that is being a reader, which she is.
You don’t have to be published to be a writer. Some people journal everyday, others write stories for their families, and some people get published widely; all are writers.
Claim yourself as a writer.
Sometimes my friends and relatives refer to me as wanting to be a writer. I immediately correct them:
“I am a writer!” I say.
2. Know Why You Write
Writing is a choice. I often hear “We write because we have to” in the writing community. I get that. We are compelled to express ourselves in different ways: on the page, in a blog, a tweet etc. You still choose to do it and you take action.
A former writing partner of mine once said, “I write to have a relationship with myself.” I loved that. Although I don’t say that’s why I write it is a big part of it.
In the last couple of years I have stated, “My writing is my activism”. My poems, essays, and articles are about challenging different forms of oppression and STOPPING violence against women.
Years ago when I was going through a tough time I told myself, “Writing is the cast to my broken spirit.” My spirit is no longer broken and I don’t want to describe it as such ever again. So, that is out the window.
Figure out why you write and focus on that. Come up with a mantra or a statement like the ones above to remind yourself of why you write and start writing.
3. Time and Place, No Time and No Place
Many writing books advise writers to figure out their most productive time of the day and to set out to write during that time or times. Experts also say to find the place you are most comfortable when writing and match time and place. Great. It does work for some. Not all.
I do have a place where I write. It’s my local coffee shop. I write at different times during the day: morning, afternoon, evening. So, I do the conventional writing with time and place matched.
Yes, there’s a “But”. Many of my poems, and a short story recently, have been written in bed at two in the morning. I spring out of bed sometimes to write down an idea, or a rough draft of a poem or story. I keep a notepad with a pen resting on it near my bed. No coffee, no table, not laptop, and very little light.
Some of the poems I’m most proud of have been written on the subway, in parks, in stairwells, and on my bed. No specific time, no specific place.
Be flexible. Set your time and place, have no time and place, just write.
Show Up: read, re-read, write, re-write, submit, publish, and do it all over again.