On Writing vs. Living

As you may recall from my last post (which feels like so long ago), I’ve been trying to be easier on myself. One thing I’ve noticed over the past week or so is that being a Pretentious Writer Artist has really messed with my being a Person.

I’ve been so encouraged to think about how the landscape where I grew up affects my physiology and so pushed to write about my home and my identity that it’s been turning me critical towards the people and places that create that everyday life I’m supposed to be analyzing.

Even I’m sick of writing about the highway that rolls by my house like I’m some angsty female Jack Kerouac or that girl in that Tom Petty song.

Anyway, this revelation got me thinking. I’ve only been flexing my creative nonfiction-writing muscles for about a year. In that time, I’ve definitely felt as though I’ve had to distance myself from myself. I’ve had to pull back and see how various experiences fit into the narrative I want to tell. And this has been insightful and revelatory in many small ways. But there’s a catch, a sacrifice.

I’ve tried so hard to turn my life into a story that I’ve almost forgotten to live it.

It’s like recording an entire concert, watching the real, live, breathing artists in front of you through your little phone screen, and not even returning to watch them later on. Except the concert is time with your family and friends, and in your head you’re constantly shaping it, critiquing it. You’re never off.

It’s a fast way to suck the fun out of your days.

I don’t think all writers have to pay this price. I don’t think it’s necessary for the sake of this creative activity we all love.

Maybe there’s just an extra step I haven’t learned. Maybe I have to digest what I’m living before I’m able to write about it in a way that’s truly honest.

And maybe if I start writing about the positive things and people that characterize my life, reflecting on them won’t feel so burdensome.

What do you think? Have you ever had to write about or think about something that just drained you? What did you do?

Writing, I Love You, But I Think We Need to See Other People

This week is my spring break, and while I’m enjoying the week off from classes, I struggle with letting my brain take breaks.

Writing looks like work in so many ways. It’s fun work, yes, but still a form of expending brainpower. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m always on.

*cue this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdIBxhONpC0

Or it’s like the IFC slogan: always on, slightly off.

A few weeks ago (I don’t know why it took me years to realize this, but alas) I was wondering why I felt so frazzled all the time. For many of my friends, downtime looks like binging a new series on Netflix, napping, or going shopping. For me, it’s been attempting to meet self-imposed writing goals, and then flogging myself mentally for not reaching those goals, or for simply needing a break.

I talk a lot about how our productivity doesn’t define us, but I’ve been finding it hard to put that principle into practice.

Maybe writing itself has become a bit of an obstacle for me. If it starts draining me rather than sustaining, I say it has to go.

Today is the first day of Lent, so I think it’s perfect timing for me to re-frame how I look at things. I might benefit from giving myself structured times to write, say an hour max, instead of composing a list of tasks that balloon to fill my entire day and make me an unsmiling, sour pretentious “artist”.

I’ve also been thinking that I need to have new experiences and go on adventures with new people in order to refill my creative well, and that’s why I want to make this summer before grad school as fun as possible.

So in summary, I’m just trying to cultivate downtime and not get mad at myself if I don’t, like, write a whole new book in an afternoon. Sounds reasonable!

Have you had any major life revelations lately? Feel free to share in the comments!