Ready to Burn


In the last year, I’ve taken a lot of chances. Maybe not as many as I would’ve liked, especially in my writing, but nonetheless one would be hard pressed to say I’m stuck in a rut.

Before I get going, I should say that this isn’t one of those apology posts where a blogger comes back after and absence and promises it will all be different. I don’t believe in those sort of posts. Frankly, when I see a post like that, I know a blog is about to die a horrible death. The writer is filled with regret and guilt. They feel they are neglecting their audience and they’re not sure what to do about it. They stumble through a hastily composed post just to change the date on the front page of the site, trying desperately to keep at bay the natural flow of change.

No, this isn’t a post like that…

Besides this isn’t that sort of blog. HNTW is a blog about writing for writers, so I don’t need to explain or apologize. You understand what happens, probably because it’s happened to you – or is happening right now. What I need to is share… that’s what I do here.

So this is what I’ve learned in the last year…

And he learned he need not go into the wilderness to find the truth, but he wished he’d gotten the memo sooner…

About a year ago, I gave up my studio. I wrote a post about it. I said I didn’t need that room. I said I was writing for the room and not for the work…

I was wrong.

Every week that goes by, I find myself missing that space and the ideas it held. I’d imbued it with some sort aspect of my spirit and when I left it, I sheared away a part of my soul without knowing exactly what I’d done.

I learned that I need a place, the Woolfsian “Room of One’s Own”.

And he thought he was the reason he was writing, but he was so terribly wrong…

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and won. I discovered an amazing character in the process, a child whose voice is so clear in my head I sometimes feel as if I wasn’t imaging him but channeling his spirit. Kip Frazier means a lot to me and I owe him nothing less than my best effort.

That said, my best effort means listening more and talking less. Kip is the teller of the tale not me.

I learned that I do my best writing when I am not writing, which is rather ironic on several levels not the least of which is the fact that I run this site.

And he found his heart challenged, and surprisingly he did not curl up into a ball and suck his thumb…

I applied to Clarion West, and again I was rejected. This is a statement of fact, not remorse. I thought my entry was particularly strong and so I sent it out for a second opinion. I found out that my entry was indeed strong, but that perhaps I lacked heart or just didn’t take enough risks.

I learned that the truth really does hurt, but if you accept it the strength you gain more than compensates for the blow to the ego. (I will apply again…)

And then he chucked it all into the chasm, and wished he had it back…

I left a job of many years and went upon my merry way to become a freelance fellow. While I was determined to spending more time writing than ever before, I ended up writing less and less, while the threads of new adventures filled the void.

This real not-writing nagged at my creative heart. No matter how much fun I was having it wouldn’t go away. Then, quite unexpectedly (which is the worst way to introduce a dramatic shift), an opportunity appeared… a challenging job in a new city with an amazing company.

Even though I didn’t need to, I accepted the job.

I did it because I wanted the job. The job is truly awesome. However, I also did it because I learned something else…

I know what I’m supposed to write, but given unlimited time I will not do it.

Until he discovered he was ready to burn…

I think that most writers dream of the moment when they have nothing else but the work at hand, and yet when faced with the opportunity for the first time I found so many things slipping around my usual writerly tricks for eeking out time at the keyboard.

In short, I’m just not ready for that much freedom, but I am ready to return to that burning drive to write.

Do you burn to write? How do you keep your writing fires stoked?

11 thoughts on “Ready to Burn

  1. I do understand the need to go out into the wilderness, and I actually had the same experience. If I have unlimited time to write, I tend not to be so focused.

    And we go on and on about wanting to write full time! When you get the chance, you suddenly find you can’t write the way you used to. I’ve found that with much of my time taken up with promotion, connecting and networking, I’ve gone back into that need to burn.

    Great post!

  2. Life is weird that way, isn’t it? One thing I know about me – the busier I am, the more I get done. Julia Cameron addresses this phenomenon in her wonderful book ‘The Right to Write.’ She says nearly every time she’s heard somebody say they’re taking a year off to write their novel, they end up writing nothing. Her philosophy – lead a rewarding, fulfilling life, and fill all of the corners with writing. That way the well of inspiration doesn’t run dry, and you’re busy enough to stay motivated. Not sure what that does to my dream of someday doing nothing but writing for a living, but it’s comforting in this time of very busy schedules. Congrats on seizing yet another life changing opportunity.

  3. Do you have an opening for an assistant?

    I read the post in my reader, then clicked on all the Google ads in the footer, because I’ve put adsense in my own feeds now. It was fun, even though I didn’t look at whatever it was that came up. We should all do that for each other.

  4. @Joely Thanks! I’m glad you hear you’ve gotten back to your need to burn. It does get crazy sometimes.

    @uppington I love “The Right to Write”. That one ranks up there with Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes (imho). I hope I haven’t spoiled your dream. It’s still my dream too. 🙂 Thanks!

    @Scott 😉

    @Rhodester You’re so kind. Thanks for the gift. While I do not have an opening just yet, I’ll keep you in mind. 🙂

  5. I understand completely. I have written very little this summer. It’s not that I had unlimited time to write (two year olds don’t grant that), but I lacked the need to write. Why? I have some theories.

    I spent some time pining away over Clarion. I was busy absorbing feedback on other stories. But mostly, I didn’t have my day job drilling into my brain and creating that need to escape.

    So — if you are like me — I hope your job isn’t too awesome. That daily grind is what turns those idea-kernals into meal so the story can be baked. (Went to a grist mill recently; can you tell?)

    I’m glad to see an update here and I’m equally glad it’s not an apology. Good luck.

  6. I love your passion for writing and feel it inside myself as well. I cannot say how it helps to know there are others out there like me, even if we are fundamentally different in many other ways, this one great link holds us and allows us to not feel alone. As I continue to write and learn my confidence builds and even though I am most likely out classed by most in their education and experience I never the less will persevere.

    I just wanted to say thanks for being out there.

  7. Nice to have you back. I definitely get the wilderness (and anybody who doesn’t see divorce as a wilderness is in another reality).

    I also see your point about too much time to write. The line in “You’ve Got Mail” where Meg Ryan’s character says “Who would have thought I would write? But if I hadn’t had all this time…” has always bothered me. When do we see her writing this book? She’s at Starbucks reading, she’s with Joe at the street market, she’s typing email; but where’s the manuscript? Sorry, I got caught up in the rant.

  8. At the end of June I thought I had put out that fire. In my day job, I write plays for student performers which I love. I love the medium, the teenagers, I just was teetering at the edge of not wanting to write about them. No burn. July was the perfect month to take off. Schools out, summer’s slow, everything is low key. No writing was the plan.

    On July 2nd (two days!!) I started fooling around with something. Something way out of what I usually write. And ended up writing the whole month, for hours at a time. I’m still working on it. I’m burning to write like a house on fire.

    It’s a nice feeling to know I hadn’t lost the urge to write, I just needed to go down a different path.

  9. Jamie. You are so great and so honest. I used to say, If you have the talent and drive worthy of quitting your job and writing full-time, you have the talent and drive to write with a job. Now that I am ramping up my own small business (editing, coaching and mentoring writers, no less), it’s a good time to be reminded of this myself. As it is, I am trying to fit writing in first thing–after I wake up through the night with my two-year-olds, get up at the crack of dawn, deal with laundry and getting them dressed–that kind of first thing. And then, once I’ve done my 1000 words (on the good days that are supposed to be the normal days), off I go to my clients and my community. Thanks for being part of it!

  10. I am *so* guilty of playing instead of writing when I have big blocks of “free” time. To use another metaphor similar to Ms. Cameron’s corners, I tend to burn when my jar is full of rocks and pebbles and I only have room for sand.

    I also tend to burn earlier in the day rather than later (a sign of getting older?), though late morning rather than the crack of dawn, which I find really frustrating because I’m typically at my day job when the fires get stoked. Sometimes I wish I worked swing shift again, but that would really wreck the family time.

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