Dabbler or Disciple: How Serious Are You About Writing?

Photo by laurelville_gallery on Flickr.

Today’s guest post comes from Ruth over at Bullish Ink, who delivers some stern truths about the passion and drive the writing life requires.

Do you want to be a writer or do you just want to write?

Here’s the difference. Those who want to be a writer experience the Writing Life as an unquenchable fever in their soul and those who want to write  experience it as a casual crush.

There’s no right or wrong answer. My objective here is to simply help us figure out what we want from the Writing Life. Do we want to dabble with it like a casual date or become its devoted disciple?

Truth is, the Writing Life doesn’t want to be penciled in. It wants to screw up your schedule without any resistance on your part. It demands your slavish devotion. You want to be a writer? Cancel your gym membership. Give up your favorite tv show. Beg out of dinner dates.

Committing To The Writing Life

Think of it this way – would you only spend fifteen minutes a day with your best friend or significant other? What kind of relationship would that produce?

Imagine saying to your spouse: “Well, I’d love to pick up milk on the way home, pudding-pie, but you’ve used up your allotted time today. How about I pencil it in for tomorrow – time permitting?”

If you continually tell your Writing Life that you can only afford it fifteen minutes a day, the relationship will self-destruct. It isn’t going to wait around forever for you to get your life figured out. It’s going to pack its bags and hit the road.

Once the two of you split the sheets, reconciliation is no peach. Forget about open arms, tender reunions and mind-blowing make-up sex. It isn’t that easy  to rekindle the romance.

I’m speaking from experience here. The Writing Life and I split up a few years back. Got pretty messy. Things were said. Feelings hurt. Vows made. Just about the darkest period of my history.

And trust me, reuniting was no picnic. Took a couple years to get our mojo back. I had to put in a lot of late nights and write hundreds of thousands of words of crap before we were able to effectively communicate again.

And that’s when I realized that I didn’t just want to write, I wanted to be a writer. I was smitten with the written word. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.

Making Time For The Writing Life

The paradox is this: we are so damn intent on figuring how to fit the Writing Life into our day-planners and warping out because there just aren’t enough hours in the day, when the simple truth is that we make time for our passion without giving it a second thought.

See, if we are passionate about writing, if our hearts pump ink and the scent of paper causes us to tremble, we will make room for writing with nary a thought to logistics.

Remember what those first few weeks of ‘being in love’ feel like? You don’t need to eat. You don’t need to sleep. You have all the time in the world to bask in the presence of your lover because you make the time.

Your calendar miraculously clears itself. Duty and obligation and busy-work fall away – unmissed, rendered unnecessary and no longer important.

That’s what it’s like to be a writer. You instantaneously and unapologetically give up activities and interests that previously defined your entire existence so that you are free to pursue your passion: the Writing Life.

Just as creative talent makes room for itself, passion makes time to pursue the lover.

The Bottom Line

So, is writing something you plug into the weekday schedule like the gym and the dentist?

Or is it something that causes you to forget to buy groceries, change your socks and flounder for your child’s name?

Are you dabbling with writing or are you its devoted disciple?

Until you move the Writing Life from your To Do List to your Can’t Wait To Do List, you won’t be able to bridge the gap between wanting to be and being.

Ruth is a forty-something administrative professional who enjoys fast-paced stories, vintage cars and southern rock. A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, storytelling is her passion. You can read more of her take on the writing life at www.bullishink.com or swing by the frugal living blog she shares with her sis at www.shoestringwithstyle.com.

10 Replies to “Dabbler or Disciple: How Serious Are You About Writing?”

  1. Great post!! I’m always exhorting my writer friends to make their passion “habit, not hobby.” It’s a whole other mindset than just dabbling, and requires a tenacity not easily gained (or appreciated) in our sugar-infused ADHD society. Thanks for posting, Ruth! (And thanks to Daniel for having you as a guest blogger!)

    1. Agreed — it’s hard to take the long view and accept that there is probably a lot of un-sexy work ahead, but that’s what it takes. Thanks for the comment, Angela.

  2. I have a couple of people in my life who seem in love with the idea of being a writer, but they don’t actually write. It’s easy to get caught up in the romantic imagery of the artist’s garret, sitting at one’s sun-dappled desk with pen in hand when suddenly Inspiration Strikes and the heartbreaking work of staggering genius is born. It’s a comforting image — so comforting that I think some people just stay there and never get their hands in the dirt.

    I also occasionally run into people who have the notion that “writer” is some kind of special appellation with its own inherent power, that one can be a writer simply be self-identifying as one. That’s only true if you actually write — a lot. Otherwise it’s meaningless.

    Thanks for the terrific guest post, Ruth!

    1. Ahh, the Romance of Writing. The well appointed writer’s garret, with it’s crackling fire and endless bookshelves and feathered inkwell is one of my fondest daydreams! Fortunately, the real world, with it’s mead composition notebooks, laptops and kindles, holds more sway over me! 🙂

    2. Haha….when I hear all this talk of sun-dappled desks and the writer’s garret, it makes me think of Jo March in Little Women. That was always the image I had in my mind of the Write’rs Life….until I actually started putting in the gruntwork. Not for the faint of heart!

  3. @ Angela – That’s it exactly! In today’s world, people want success at the speed of light. They want to sit at the sun-dappled desk Daniel mentioned and collect their advances and royalties. It’s not that darn easy, folks! And if it were, I wouldn’t want any part of it?! I wouldn’t trade the Writing Life for a single moment on Easy Street.

    I live for those moments when I am flush with a brand new story idea or when I arrive at just the write word or phrase – and I embrace the agony of cutting a scene or character for the good of story – or even those dark hours when I realize that the story at hand should be put out to pasture.

    I’ve lost friends and relationships over writing. But I’ve gained so much more: a strong voice, the confidence to trust my storytelling instincts and an unapologetic devotion to the craft! 🙂

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