We all write for different reasons, at different speeds, and with different goals in mind. All of the writing you do, from the most private journaling to paid articles or books, is part of what I call a “writing practice.” Just like doctors have a “medical practice,” success follows when you learn to regard your writing in its entirety, not by the result of one project, or the state of your career at this moment, or anyone else’s opinion.
Why? Because when you see your writing as the entire ocean and not just a wave, you will find stores of patience, learn what rewards you, and count even the smallest bits of writing or success as part of a greater whole.
But in order to cultivate a practice, or tend the one you already have, you first have to ask yourself a very important question.
Why do I write?
One of my friends writes “for therapy” and does not, necessarily, find the process pleasurable, but she does enjoy (even need) the result, which she then publishes.
Another friend has always felt a clarion call to write from as far back as she can remember and feels bereft when she can’t get to her writing due to the demands of her three children.
Yet another friend has a very clear goal of making her writing her living, and so she treats it like a business.
I feel the need to write like an itch in the brain that must be answered only through writing. Not only does writing lift my mood and add energy to my being, just thinking about it makes me feel better. And then I can spin some of that into my career goals.
What we all have in common is that we have a writing practice.
What is a writing practice again?
- You write regularly. You make time for it, prioritize it.
- You write because it serves you (and you have at least a slight understanding of why)
- You write more than you lament not writing
- You treat your writing, in all its forms, as part of a larger process, an integral part of your life
- You write from a place of your own unique voice, truth and vision—you are not a slave to the ever-changing “markets”
- You seek support from friends and loved ones, as well as mentors and teachers when you are stuck
- You can change your form, your mind, your voice, your character—you know that flexibility and experimentation are useful tools to creativity
So you may now be saying: Ack! I don’t do all of these things on the list; I must not have a writing practice, and what does that mean?
You DO have a writing practice, it’s just fallow—like the earth between a gardener’s plantings. Sometimes, we get discouraged, tired, blocked, frustrated or overwhelmed, and we tell ourselves the lie that we shouldn’t/can’t/won’t write anymore. We take time away from a project, the writing, our goals…for a while.
Your writing practice is always waiting for you. It begins the moment you return to it. Like all energy in the universe, it is never destroyed; it only changes form.
Now make a list: “Why do I write?” Write any and all reasons why you write from the silliest to the grandest. You may write because you like the way ink feels moving from pen to paper; because words clutter your mind otherwise; because you want to move people; because you love to spin a good yarn…
I’ve been through several dark nights of the writing soul from which I thought I would not emerge still a writer. But I asked myself who I would be if I didn’t write. I asked myself why I wrote and whether I would give up writing. I came to this: I love to write. Writing adds to my quality of life and experience of self. It helps me see clearly. It opens hidden passages of meaning. Writing is my joy. No matter what the critics say, the markets do, or the reviews it gets.
And every time I’ve returned to it with that passion, the fruits of my writing have brought me both internal and external results.
Go on now. Your writing practice is calling.