And When I Need a break, There Is Line drawing.

I’m not really very fond of the word doodle. Or the words really or very. But I’m super fond of the on-line drawing class I’m taking over at with Lisa Congdon. “Line drawing” is a much more dignified way of saying “doodle,” don’t you think? Above is this week’s sampling of suggested shapes and line play. When I practice, I hear Lisa’s soothing voice offer supportive thoughts like, “Imperfection is what makes it interesting.” Like finding cashews in the bed sheets?

The drawing class has been a great way to rest between writing story drafts.

During the past couple of weeks 68% of all my energy has gone into story writing. Another 20% has gone into the bookkeeping I do for money. That has left only 12% for the rest of life. Hardly balanced, you know? Sleeping, eating, taking walks, bathing, cat-care, a pinch of socializing all crammed into 12%? I think I used to have more of a 33/33/34 split. But my word for 2014 is CREATE, and I’ve prefaced it with FOCUS.

FOCUS. CREATE. I want to write this story collection while I have the chance. I want it more than anything else. Since reading Ann Patchett’s essay, “The Get Away Car”, I’ve got a simple new mantra: put writing first.

No one can (or will) put writing first for me. It doesn’t matter that, right now, no one is paying me to write. In fact, if you count workshop tuition and the hours I’ve turned down paying work, one could say that I actually pay to write. Nonetheless, my commitment is unwavering.

Lately, I say “no” more often than ever before. Not only to clients (who would pay me with money if I only had more time available), but also to friends texting, “HH?” at 4pm on a Friday. It’s uncomfortable–having spent 44 years as a people pleaser–now suspecting that my newly enforced boundaries are displeasing to some people.

Maybe tolerating discomfort is only a matter of practice. Seven years go, I walked a marathon. I was obsessed with figuring out how to do it for close to two years. Preparing to go 26.2 miles on my feet as fast as my heart and lungs would allow was all about practicing continuing on in the face of discomfort. I even decided to find bliss inside of that discomfort, and it worked. I finished and finished happy.

Then again, maybe A Committed Writing Life isn’t a grand tour into perpetual discomfort. Maybe this is just a period of adjusting expectations. Either way, I’m continuing on.

Last week, when I finished another first draft, my smile was unsuppressable. One of my writing partners turned around immediate notes, and I was thrilled with her insights. Already great feedback for the rewrite. I’m in good hands. So grateful.

The story gets workshopped later next week. So tomorrow I’ll pick up work on another piece. I’ll let myself get so immersed in it that by the time the night of the workshop rolls around, I’ll have some distance from the newly completed draft. And so on, and so on.

Put writing first. “Time applied equals work completed.” [Patchett]. Work for yourself. Keep the stories rotating. Habits come from practice. Keep going. This is what I tell myself.

And when I need a break, there is line drawing.

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