Writing comes with all sorts of pressures—the pressure to produce words regularly, to finish and publish things, to produce better words, to make money by doing that. To read a lot, to keep up with the writing community.
The writing life is exhausting. There’s always more to do — write more words, finish more stories, read more books. It seems that the only way to even hope to make any mark with your words is to dedicate every free second you have to writing.
I’ve been feeling a lot of those pressures myself, and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. Is writing the only way how I should spend my free time?
The thing is, I love doing other creative things too. I play the guitar and drums. Sometimes, I take my giant camera and tripod out to the wild to capture some sweeping landscape shots. I used to dabble in digital painting and video making and generative art. Making things makes me happy and learning to make things probably even more. I can’t help it.
However, I’ve always felt a weird sense of guilt about these things. What am I doing here? Shouldn’t I be writing?
In a way, yeah, I should. Somewhere in the world, there’s someone else sitting behind their desk producing words constantly. Oh no, I’m falling behind already!
I’m not saying that’s wrong. If both of our manuscripts land on a publisher’s desk at the same time, theirs will likely to be the better written one. And if the person doing it loves writing and only writing and wants to do that for the rest of their life, that’s cool. But I also know, that I can’t just do one thing, because I’d die of boredom.
Exploring other creative pursuits aside from writing (in case it isn’t a form of avoidance to skip writing sessions) won’t improve your craft, but it will expand the breadth of your experience. You will be able to see the world through a completely different lens—something that the super-focused, heads-down writer will never have.
In the end, writing isn’t about structure, vocabulary or perfect punctuation. Sure, craft is important, but nowhere near as important as what you have to say. It won’t be much if you live your entire life from behind a writing desk.
That gives me solace, that in a way, writing gives even the weirdest of my creative side projects a reason.
I read these short stories this week:
- Jean Wants by Alyse Wexler
- Molting by Sarah Marie Kosch
- Tacky Goblin by T. Sean Steele
- Network by Jake Rawdin
- Greetings From by Melissa Amstutz
- Some Things About Typewriters Cindy Hunter Morgan
- Jerry by Miles Greaves
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