Episode 13 - Honoring Your Space
In the fourth episode of the “honoring your creative space” series, we look at the notion that it matters what you do in your creative space and that some activities are more honorable than others. It is fine to do research for your novel–but only if that research is really needed and not if you are researching in order to avoid tackling that hard chapter in front of you. What can you do to better honor your creative space? Tune in and find out.
Today’s show is the fourth episode in a series called “Honoring Your Creative Space.” In this series I’ll be chatting about what you need to do in order to find, protect, and honor sufficient space in which to create. For convenience I’ll address you as a writer, but the same ideas apply whether you are creating novels, paintings, songs, or theorems. Today’s show, from an essay in my forthcoming book A Writer’s Space, is called “Honoring Your Space.” Let’s begin!
It matters what you do when you are in your writing space. It matters whether you are working on your novel or surfing the Internet. It matters whether you are pining for the one agent who will fall in love with your writing or preparing to query thirty agents. It matters whether you are building your platform by offering to write columns, speak at churches, and lead teleseminars, or whether you are fantasizing about who will play the lead when your novel is made into a movie. Just sitting in your space isn’t enough; it matters what you do there.
It matters whether you are writing your second novel, even though your first one hasn’t sold yet, or brooding that you aren’t published. It matters whether you are writing an email to your literary agent, with whom you haven’t been in contact for six months, or waiting for the phone to ring with news that she’s sold your novel. It matters whether you are honorably revising your novel, maybe for the fifth time, because it’s still muddled in spots, or doing everything you can to avoid its muddles. It matters what you are doing.
It matters whether you are contemplating some shortcut—maybe stealing a few scenes from that first novel of yours that went awry and dropping them into your current novel, where they might just possibly fit—or sitting up straight in your chair and writing the scenes your novel needs. It matters whether you are thinking of a hiring an editor, a ghostwriter, or even the handyman to write your book, because you are completely sick of it and can’t face it, or whether you are biting the bullet, brewing some tea, and hunkering down to write.
It matters whether you are sitting in the dark with the shades drawn and your computer off, because you are sad and depressed, or whether you are helping yourself out of your depression by whatever means possible. If that means getting out of the house, that’s what it means; better that than sitting in your writing space inert and morose.
Honoring your writing space means that if you are embroiled in tasks, dramas, crises, and errands, you ring a bell at your appointed time and let all of that go. You enter your writing space clear and unencumbered. If you are tired from your day job, you splash water on your face; if you are exhausted from your mate’s chatting, you take an aspirin and a quick nap; if you have a hundred things to do before you get to write, you put that long list aside and remind yourself what honor means.
Honoring your writing space means that if you need to read what you’ve previously written, you read it. If you need to plunge forward without rereading, you plunge forward. You accept that you have craft to master, attention to pay, and a routine to follow. You refuse to attribute any of your shortcomings to your “artistic nature.” You get off your high horse and sit right down on your swivel chair, do the work, and honor the process.
At the same time, you set the bar sufficiently high. It is fine to write articles; but is it fine to never write a book? It is fine to begin your thirtieth journal; but is it fine to have written only journal entries? It may seem funny to get off your high horse and also set the bar high, but the two go together beautifully: you agree to work without fanfare and you choose work equal to your dreams.
You honor your writing space by recovering, if you are an addict. You honor your writing space by becoming an anxiety expert, a real pro at mindfulness and personal calming. You honor your writing space by affirming that you matter, that your writing life matters, and that your current writing project matters. You honor your writing space by entering it with this mantra: “I am ready to work.” You enter, grow quiet, and vanish into your writing.
Honor is a funny word, a loaded word, a difficult word. It is not a word to toss around lightly. But I’m willing to bet that you place it at the very top of your list of words with personal meaning. I bet you love it, believe in it, and aspire to it. Live that way, then! Honor the fact that you believe in honor and construct your writing life around it.
If you live your life as you intend it to be lived, you will find yourself in your writing space thousands of times. Sixty years of writing, two hours a day, translates to better than 50,000 hours in your writing space. Squander some of those hours: we all must. Be in a bad mood for some of those hours: just like everyone else. Write poorly during some of those hours: there’s no way around that. But try your best to honor your writing space. That’s the key intention. It matters what you do in your writing space. Do the right things.
Four things to remember:
1. Make a list of the things you will never do in your writing space. Keep that list handy, right beside your computer.
2. Make a list of the things you will only occasionally do in your writing space. Keep that list handy, right beside your computer.
3. Make a list of the things you intend to do most of the time that you are in your writing space. Keep that list handy, right beside your computer.
4. Consolidate these three lists into one, then mind it.
That concludes today’s show. I hope you’ll come back next week for another episode in the series. To subscribe to “the joy of living creatively,” please visit personallifemedia.com, where you’ll also find my blog. You can drop me an email at [email protected]; and I hope that you’ll visit my website to learn more about my books and services. That’s ericmaisel.com—(spelled out).
Thank you for listening!