I remember, very distinctly, a pivotal moment early on in my writing career. I didn’t even have a “career” yet – in fact, I was about to give up on ever being able to write for a living. (This was before the selfpub revolution, so bear with me.)
You see, I had only been writing for a short while, but I was already smitten with that crazy love that makes you stay up late, fingers at keyboard, lost in your world. Loving your characters, tormenting them, saving them… giving all the best lines to your secret favorite side character. It was all great, except… I had just figured out that writers didn’t make any money. Even if I caught the gold ring of publishing – a contract with a house – chances were my advance would be small, and I’d never be able to make a living at it.
This made me angry.
So, naturally, I went to see a movie. By myself. In the middle of the day, while my kids were at school (I never do this). I can’t remember the movie now, but it was something I really enjoyed. At the end, I sat in the theater as everyone emptied out, unmoving, in a complete rage. I wanted to create stories like I had just seen on the screen! I wanted to move people, make them laugh, make them cry, make them feel. I wanted to do this full-time. How dare the world tell me that was impossible!
The rage coursed through me for about ten minutes, until I got out to the car. Then I realized: no one could stop me from writing my stories. No one. Whether they sold or not mattered little – what mattered was the creation itself. The only person who could stop me was… me.
It was the first time I realized two things: 1) creating stories was no longer optional for me, and 2) making a living from it wasn’t what justified spending time on it. Creation had value all to itself.
Now, years later, I do make a living from my works. But I was reminded of this moment once again, as I sat in a theater watching Guardians of the Galaxy (great film, by the way): bearing witness to fantastically creative works often surges up an urgent need to create inside me. But with the kids home for the summer, vacations, and a hundred other distractions, I hadn’t been doing that creative work for over a week… and that anger was starting to well up again.
This time I recognized it for what it was: my soul saying, stop with that other pointless stuff and do the creation you’re meant to do. It’s that dig-down-deep moment in the movie, when the characters look at each other and decide to become the heroes: to do the important thing, not just the thing that saves their skins or makes them a billion credits. It’s the moment we, as viewers, live for because it resonates in our own souls.
I’m heeding that voice: this weekend, I’ll be taking a few days to myself, running off to a hotel to write. Not because I need to crank out words to make a living… but because I need to replenish my soul with creative acts.
I hope you’ll find a spot of time this weekend to do the same.