Don’t get me wrong: I think reading, responding, and critiquing the work of others is important. It was important to me as an undergraduate because deconstructing the work of others was a great way to figure out my own narrative weaknesses and begin to find ways to shore up my own shaky bits. That was even more true as I pursued my MFA in Creative Writing; there was no shortage of “even better” things to learn from “even better quality” stories.
Even now–even as a MASTER of the craft, as my diploma tells me I am–when I teach beginning level writers and respond and critique the submissions of private writing clients and other writer friends, I find the work of reading the writing of others with a kind-yet-critical eye to be an opportunity to learn.
But, man, it can be a little overwhelming. It can also become a convenient excuse to not write.
I met with a couple of local writer friends today. We spend time eating and catching up on personal lives and all sorts of things, but we also spend time asking each other some key questions about our writing: what are we working on, what successes we are having, where are we struggling, creatively. Today, as I was talking about all the non-writing things I’ve been up to the last couple of months, I realized just how much time I’ve spent focused on the work of others, and how little I’ve spent on NEW writing for me.
This isn’t a disaster. I do get value from doing that work. But, it’s also time for me to make sure I’m carving a little more writing time for myself.
There have even been a few days when I’ve chosen to work on responding to others and put my own writing aside. Literally. And that, dear reader, is a warning bell: When the desire (and opportunity) to write is supplanted by something that–while good and valuable–isn’t actually moving your own writing forward, you’ve got a problem.
It may be creative fatigue, it may be the writer’s fear, it may be any number of “reasons” that we use to delay the hard work of writing, but it is most definitely a sign that you’d better take a good look at yourself and weed out whatever creative obstacle you’ve placed in your road.
So that’s where I am, this afternoon: proactively seeking answers in my own creative life. I’m taking a look at where I am, where I wanted to be by now, and where I can establish my next benchmark for moving toward the bigger and better writing life I have in mind.
I hope you are being creative and active in your writing life, but if you aren’t maybe you can join me in a little planning and strategy session to get things back on track. And, as always, let me know if I can help.
Have a great day, and Happy Writing!!
P.S. No. I don’t ACTUALLY consider myself a Master Writer, just because my diploma says I am… 😉