Four Questions to Help You Face This Season of Writing

I sit at our dining table to write, while my kids play beside me. They often talk to imaginary “good” guys and “bad” guys, and today is no exception. My four-year-old lays on the floor, scowling at an imagined person standing over him, “I’m the real one.”

Then, he gets up and stands in the position of the person standing over him, and says, “No! I’m the real one.” This goes on for a while, back-and-forth dialogue between identical characters, each eager to prove their veracity.

I think the game is stuck in an infinite—and, ahem, somewhat annoying—loop, when suddenly both characters agree: “No! We’re both the real ones.”

I share this day-in-my-life illustration for two reasons you might relate to:

    • I have had to adapt to this pandemic season.
    • I have been feeling as if I must battle my own evil twin, because a lot of what used to work for past me isn’t working for present me.

Recently, I have been noticing how much I hold onto the image of the writer I was in past seasons. Some days I set goals for my writing and get frustrated when I don’t meet them. Then, I mentally beat myself up.

But if I look around for a beat and truly let it settle in how much the world has shifted, if I notice those kids running around me with wonderful and distracting energy, I recognize that what I expect from myself hasn’t caught up with reality.

The world that existed in the before, doesn’t exist anymore. I’m not alone at home writing. Each time I write, I hear my family and new obligations pressing at the door with their (very reasonable) needs.

The truth is that what used to work for me to get down to writing or just be present in my life isn’t working anymore.

I’m hearing from many disappointed writers. Many of them are upset about their current level of productivity, frustrated about not meeting their goals. Some may put themselves down, discount their worth, compare themselves unfavourably to (possibly imagined) past selves.

Like me, many writers are feeling untethered and unsettled as they process what’s happened this year.

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t sustain this level of unease with my present self. It’s exhausting.

The other day, I was feeling this exhaustion, so I took a moment to recognize my currently reality. And then I got out a dry-erase marker and wrote down in big letters on the mirror in my office space:

THE PRACTICE IS THE GOAL.

When I wrote this, I meant that the intention and time I spared to write and explore is so much more important to me right now than numeric word counts and output. The practice of exploring my world and my life—“tasting life twice” as Anaïs Nin called writing—is the part of being a writer that matters most to me.

This means that both the me that was and the me that is here in the thick of this season are legit. (“We’re both the real ones!”)

I’m ready to help myself up off the floor and ground into my present reality. The help me ground even more into this season, here are four questions I’m asking myself. Their aim is to gently get to the heart of what’s true for me and my writing right now:

      1. What is giving me energy these days? (And what is draining me?)
      2. What do I need to show up in this season and stay true to my present writer-self?
      3. What do I need to feel grounded/alive/aware right now?
      4. How can I do to stay true to where I am this season and work toward my writing goals?

I’m using these questions to help me really get to the heart of what’s going to help me practice writing this season. The practice is the goal.

I hope these questions help you ground into this season and stay true to yourself and your own goals as you write.

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