Novel Writing – Indulgence or Obligation?

in #writing5 years ago

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Strange Occupation

Ours is a strange occupation. I’m talking about writers. If you narrow it down to novelists—the occupation is even more strange. Accepting the strangeness and coming to terms with the strangeness, often takes many years. Sometimes an entire lifetime.

If you follow my blogs, you know that I’ve been in the writing and publishing business for over 30 years. That means I’ve been hanging around writers for a very long time. This is my tribe. My kind of people.

Because of this long-standing association, I know that most novelists (both veteran and novice) for the most part, struggle to squeeze novel-writing time in among a myriad of other demands of life. A fellow writer, with whom I am connected as a Facebook friend, often posts with great glee when she can report that she’s had a day in which she was able to devote much time to her novel-in-progress.
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Quote from Richard Bausch

Which brings me to the title of this blog post. It was a quote from author Richard Bausch that set me to some serious thinking about this mindset alluded to by my friend’s Facebook post. (Bausch is the author of many works, including Hello to the Cannibals, HarperCollins, 2002.) He stated:

There’s something that feels selfish about this arduous occupation.

Okay. That comment hit right between the eyes. Sometimes I do feel selfish wanting more and more time for myself, my novel, and my creative bent. Do you relate?

But our author friend, Richard, wasn’t through. He went on to add:
…you have to understand that it’s not an indulgence. If you have any gift for it, it is an obligation. Indulgences are what you give up to do it.

Richard Bausch then pointed out that it is our indulgences that we give up—such as lunch with a friend, a night out with the guys/girls, mindlessly browsing the Internet, playing video games, and so on, in order to fulfill our obligation.

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Search for Balance

Hm. Interesting viewpoint.

What he’s saying is when you become dead serious about your writing, your life will be in balance and there will be time for your writing and the other needed obligations such as family, work or business, exercise, rest, and so on.

I can’t help but wonder if this slight paradigm shift in thinking might help many fledgling novelists. It calls for a delicate tight-wire walk in balancing life demands and the obligation (as Bausch called it) to use the gift that you’ve been given. That of being a novelist.

When teaching novelists, or when I'm coaching, I often have clients explore at length the lies our mind tells us when it comes to sitting down and actually writing the novel. (Or any other writing project that you are currently working on.) Where do the excuses stem from? We need to know.

Part of the obstacle that keeps you from writing, could be exactly what Richard pointed out. In your mind the act of writing is placed on par with a small child sneaking into the kitchen when mother’s back is turned, climbing up on the cabinet, and stealing cookies from the cookie jar. Not a very professional way to regard your gift, talent, and calling.

When the Good Feeling Wears Off

Another aspect of this faulty perception that occurred to me as I read his quote is this. If time to work on the novel is viewed as an indulgence, then when the good feeling (associated with indulgences) wears off, and the real work begins, that could spell trouble.

As with most of my posts that pose questions, the goal is not to seek answers, but to make you think. We novelists, of all people, must be firmly established in our belief in self, in talent and abilities, and in—yes, I’ll say it—our obligation!

So then, ask yourself: Where does that leave me?

Meanwhile, keep on writing…

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