Writers and their why

Thursday, September 20, 2018 Permalink

In case you live under a rock, or you know… don’t follow me on social media, you may not be aware I’m in Italy on a writing retreat with Aussie author Vanessa Carnevale. We’re over halfway through the week, which is incredibly depressing but it’s been a wonderful opportunity for me to participate in my favourite sport: navel gazing. I’ve also taken the time however to reflect on some important stuff that does actually relate to writing and creativity.

On our first day we did some goal setting for the week. My goal was centred around the whole ‘what do I want to write’ thing given I’ve got several projects on the go. (If ‘on the go’ means you started them 3-10 years ago and have done SFA in the last two years!). However, because I’m prone to overthinking I also couldn’t help pondering the ‘why I write’ question… as in – why do I think I need to write a novel? Would I be happy to just continue blogging as an outlet for my creativity and addiction to words and phrases? Or perhaps there are other alternatives?

Either way it was the perfect segue-way into our day two workshop, centering around creativity; remembering why we write and ways to overcome writers’ block or resistance in the form of fear, procrastination or just other-life busy-ness.

I was particularly interested in the ‘why we write’ response from my fellow retreaters.

We have a ‘what happens on retreat stays on retreat’ rule so I’m afraid I cannot divulge details of our debaucherous partying but… I found it of interest that there were some common threads winding through our writing histories.

why writers write

Why writers write

1. A love of reading
We all have a passion for reading, which started when we were kids.

2. Validation
And then there were comments about receiving positive feedback on our writing at an early age. (As an aside, this isn’t really something I remember, though I know english and maths – which required minimal study – were my fave school subjects.)

3. Spinning a yarn
My fellow retreatees talked about a love of storytelling. This was something I thought I couldn’t relate to until I remembered how bloody long-winded I can be about things. My mother often comments on the fact I often regaled her (delightfully, and at length) with the details of movies I’d seen. Actually I think she might have implied it was a laborious invasion of her precious time that she’d never get back, but still..

4. Understanding or communicating our thinking
There was a common theme around exploring and perhaps clarifying our thoughts and feelings through writing. Indeed one of my favourite memes about writing is this one…

5. A passion or healthy addiction
And everyone pretty much talked about being able to lose themselves in their writing. Time disappears and is spent effortlessly while (good and perhaps not-so-good) words flow.

Of course we talked about the things which prevent us from writing and act as blocks or deterrents and ways to push past these. Indeed, as Vanessa shared some common ones we noted these apply to many things in life.

Barriers and Blocks to writing and creativity

1. Not good enough / self worth
Obviously there’s a sense that ‘we’re not good enough’; that our time is better spent elsewhere or tales better told by someone else. I mean, who do we think we are calling ourselves writers? Yet we write don’t we?

2. Fear of failure
It’s the age-old cause of apathy and anguish. Of course it’s linked to feelings of self-worth and our resilience. And then of course there’s its ugly step-sister… the fear of success. I mean, what happens IF we happen to succeed in what we’re pursuing? They’ll be expectations for more. (From us and others!)

But on the subject of failure or not-succeeding in the way we hoped… I’ve talked about this before and shared this quote challenging us with this….

why writers write

3. Practical stuff
I’ve used my full-time job as a reason (ahem, excuse…. which I think is an entirely different thing) for the fact my writing, reading and blogging have dropped off over the last year. But, I’m also conscious that people can MAKE time in their lives for stuff that’s important. They get up 30 minutes earlier. They write during a lunch break. (They schedule in gym visits and so forth.)

I’ve talked a bit about a lack of headspace (white space) rather than time, being problematic. For me it’s that I’ve been thinking and problem solving all day…. I don’t want to sit and have to think more. I’m basically incapable of deciding what to have for dinner at the end of the day let alone decide which character will be the one hiding murderous tendencies.

However… there are great resources out there about how to avoid decision-making fatigue or how to create more whitespace in our days. (Indeed, I’ve got about 15 articles open in the browser on my iPhone about those very topics!)

Of course there were more, but these hit home for me….

I should mention, it does assume we want it (the thing we think we should be pursuing) enough. Whether it’s time to write or read, exercise or lose weight or hang our more with friends and family.

I know not many of my readers are writers so I’ll avoid the first question, but I’m interested in ways you might overcome some of the barriers to the stuff you have to do in your life? 

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | And Anyways | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

  • leannelc
    September 20, 2018

    It must be so rewarding to connect with others who have the same passion Deb. I have no inclination to write anything (even my blog is fading a little in my future priority list for some reason). I guess you need to know what drives you, and then drill down on it and get on with the process. So glad you’re finding inspiration in the retreat 🙂

  • Jo
    September 20, 2018

    i write because I like to tell a story and create a happy ending. Barriers? Time. Obvs. Juggling the fulltime job with writing, blogging & trying to exercise. But, as they say, if you want anything badly enough…which I do…you fit it in…somehow.

  • Denyse Whelan
    September 20, 2018

    Oh yes, comments are open. This retreat sounds like a lesson in living life as it’s meant to be. Gosh, it both sounds and looks so awesome. I believe you are a story-teller and I’d love to be reading about your former work life. But I can also understand that :”who says I am a writer?” Getting our heads around labels we think belong to others is a huge step..and then using them. I found this when I first started doing arty things. We were encouraged to see ourselves as artists and to make art. I embraced it once I realised “I” was the only barrier to that. Keep on enjoying all that you do, see and feel.

    Denyse x

  • Debbie
    September 21, 2018

    I’ve just crawled out from under my rock feeling jealous that you are on Vanessa’s retreat, but also so happy for you. I am a huge fan of her writing and the retreat sounds amazing.
    I am at a stage in my life that I have this inner desire to write and am always thinking about it, but am also constantly putting off the task of actually making time to write.
    Thanks for your post. It resonated on so many levels. Have fun and happy writing.

  • Sue
    September 21, 2018

    I can relate to many of these reasons Deb, and some of them I’d never really considered before – I didn’t think I loved to “spin a yarn” either, but when you put it that way I can be VERY verbose in my writing!! I really do love to write, and I often ask myself why I do it, and who on earth would want to read my offerings, but then I always settle back to being quite peaceful about the fact that writing is a creative outlet for my love of words and word combinations, spelling and grammar, and I would probably continue to write even if nobody read it. When I think of my blog as a journal that I make public, it sits quite nicely with me.
    Hope you continue to enjoy the retreat and your travels xx

  • Jan Wild
    September 21, 2018

    You are so right Deb we all have blocks, writers or not. For me it’s a matter of knowing how that nasty little voice in my head sounds so that I am alert to the messages and can push back against them. I often find too that I need to do the more ‘challenging’ (in the sense of readily avoidable) things first, which is why I like to do my exercise in the morning before I get busy with other things. Would that work for your writing?

  • Bronwyn Marquardt
    September 21, 2018

    I so relate to “I don’t know what I think until I write it down’. And for me, it’s not the act of writing, it’s typing it, but it’s getting the thoughts down. I also know authors who are really dedicated and vigilant, and I think that’s half my problem: I need to schedule in the fun writing along with everything else. Can’t wait to hear what else you learn during you retreat.

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    September 22, 2018

    Sooooo interesting. Gosh, I could sit and talk to you about this for hours! (or listen to you talk about your writing retreat for hours at least …) #teamlovinlife

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