The other day, a friend asked me for a bit of “coaching” advice. I’m not an official writing, life, football (altho’ I’m kind of wishing I went into that line of work about now) or any other kind of coach. But I am one helluva cheerleader for those wanting to deepen their relationship with their creativity. If I had a long line of creatives wanting to be advised, I might charge or barter. Since I don’t, my shared inspiration, like my blog, are free. This way no one can get mad if things don’t work out the way they hoped. At least they won’t have spent any money. Besides, I often get inspiration in return. This works out well for everyone.
My friend, who is a talented poet and essayist, had been on a long retreat from writing. Busy with entrepreneurship, passionate gardening, and beekeeping, she’d left serious writing behind for awhile. Everyone takes time off, but real writers always return to the page eventually. It is true that the longer you’re away, the longer it takes to reclaim the level of writing you had attained. Like riding a bike, you won’t forget, but you must be patient as you practice the balance and spin of writing well.
She said that, as she was turning 45, she wanted to commit to 45 pieces (short essays) in 45 days. As she talked, she repeated the word “commit” several times and I noticed each time the wince and swallow that accompanied it. Listening, I realized the word commitment is overused and perhaps abused. We tend to associate it with whips and chains, being tied to a chair with our nose to the grindstone. The word feels more like an anchor tying us to our creativity than a hot air ballon that lifts us up above the ordinary.
So I surprised her when I said, “Oh, you want to give yourself the gift of your writing back for your 45th birthday. Congratulations!” We smiled at one another. “Think of it as the birthday present you are giving yourself rather than a commitment. How about that?”
“I’m going to start right now,” she said and disappeared while I began mowing. I’d finished when she reappeared. She looked both pleased and slightly distressed. “I did it,” she said, giving the nod to her accomplishment. “But it took me nearly two hours. That’s too long.”
“Oh, yeah,” I replied. “We didn’t finish talking about your guidelines. You only get 45 minutes to write your 45 pieces in 45 days.”
“That won’t work. I’ll never reach my goal that way.”
I smiled, “Sure you will. You’ll get faster as you go along. Plus some pieces may be shorter than others. They don’t all need to be the same length. Perhaps the rule should be you BEGIN 45 pieces in 45 days. If you don’t finish one, you pick it up the next day until you complete it. Then you begin the next piece, even if you only get 5 or 10 minutes in. You’ll catch up to yourself eventually.”
“Got it,” she grinned. “You should blog about this–creativity as a gift to yourself rather than a commitment,” she tossed her own advice over her shoulder as she headed for the garden.