Every day I observe then jot notes, or type them into Evernote on my phone. I think while I’m driving, folding clothes and emptying the dishwasher. These activities are critical steps before I sit down to write. For me, writing is butt in chair, pencil moving across the page. (Revision may also include fingers on the keyboard.) And even though I don’t always make it to the page every day, sometimes when I’m there, it’s a no-kidding marathon, and I won’t leave.
But some days, some weeks, I don’t get to all of my writing projects. Every writer I know feels bad about lapses in their practice. I didn’t write today. This phrase is often followed by expressions of judgment like shame, guilt, self-doubt. There are many time management and tracking tools to address the practical tactical matters but for today, there’s something bigger I want to address.
My mind is a powerful multitasker — I can create to do lists while simultaneously feeling bad that I can’t complete them all. Eventually, I learned that no one can do everything — this lesson was harder than it sounds. And a couple of years ago, I decided to stop feeling bad. It takes a lot to get on in the world, earning a living, caring for people, and then there’s this matter of writing. I decided to cut myself some slack.
In fact, I decided to have fun.
I became a roller derby referee for a local women’s banked track league. When I officiate, I can’t think about writing. Or anything else for that matter. I can only focus on what I’m doing at that moment. Roller derby can be dangerous if your mind is elsewhere. It’s rewarding to keep games safe, enforce the rules, train with an outstanding ref crew, meet great fans who are passionate about the sport, and give time to groups like Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles. Roller derby, even for crisp time managers, is a part-time job and time away from writing.
This grand experiment has taught me that I’m a person who writes, not a writer who “persons.” It’s okay to be out in the world, away from my desk, focusing intently on something else other than the poem I’m crafting. I’ve learned to be a little more patient with myself, to be a lot more accepting of all of the opportunities that life offers and, above all, that I won’t forget about writing – I will return to my desk. I’ll even have a few stories to tell.
So it’s okay — go ahead, get out there, live a little, live a lot, live often.