Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Taste of Not Writing

As you all know, I am a huge advocate of writing every day. No excuses. Like a concert pianist going back to basics, or an athlete staying limber, I believe it’s vitally important to the difference between writing as a profession/vocation or a hobby.

That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t take a day off or a vacation where writing is not the primary focus or even any part of it. We all need downtime to recharge the creative batteries. Sometimes, you have to take a leave of absence from your Muse for awhile, so that when you get back together, you’re glad to see each other and you can dive back in. I plan trips, but I do not have a designated day off. I prefer a floating day – whenever I feel I need a day, provided I’ve stayed on top of deadlines/contracts – I take a day and do whatever I darned well please. Then, the next day, I’m raring to go back to the page.

I had a taste of the non-writing life in February and March—working on a full Broadway schedule, battling two illnesses, and the infamous flood in our town, where I lost my car, ten families lost everything, we were without power, hot water, and heat, and a small group of us worked hauling generators, running lines, etc., trying to get things going.

I’m not so dependent on the computer that I wouldn’t write without it. We’ve had many a power failure in this place, and I’ve written by candlelight. And I managed to keep on top of all the paid, contracted deadlines.

But I didn’t do any of my own, undeadlined work. I didn’t scan the job boards. I didn’t research markets and try to see if I had something that would fit or if I was inspired to write something to fit.

Most days, I couldn’t even read – be it from illness or exhaustion.

I’ll tell you something: I didn’t like it.

Beyond the dis-ease being ill gave me, I felt fractured, I felt dull, I felt out of sorts. The colors in the world seemed less vibrant. Not only did I feel less interesting as an individual, I felt less interested in the world.

Being a writer engages me in everything that goes on around me. Writing is like breathing to me, and, even though on many levels I’m a rather shy and reticent person, the writing encourages me to ask questions, explore, and learn about everything around me. I often joke that I’m interested in everything except math and anchovies, and even anchovies have a place in a Caesar salad.

I’ve had non-writers or “hobby writers” cluck on about how writers who write every day are dis-engaged from life – life is too full, too important, there’s too much to do (the old “no time” excuse again) to sit down and write anything.

I disagree. Not writing made me more dis-engaged than I ever was when writing. It made me feel like the world was passing me by and I was a spectator instead of a participant. Which is odd, because so often writers are characterized as being on the outside looking in, perpetual observers. When I write as I live (not necessarily what I live) – my life and the lives of my characters not only make more sense, there’s more color in the world in general. Instead of a palette of storm grays and dull beiges, there’s a vibrant rainbow of life.

--Devon Ellington

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At 7:10 AM, Blogger Colin said...

I agree. Writing provides me with a medium for looking at the world using all my senses, and provides a motivation to get out and experience new things, attitudes and opinions. It forces a blend between 'research' and 'living life'.

At 5:58 PM, Blogger sylvia c. said...

Great article, Devon.

Writing makes me feel more like myself.

Glad you made it through!


Sylvia C.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Lori said...

Terrific insight, toots. That's exactly how I feel when I'm not writing.

At 1:25 AM, Blogger bikerchick said...

Great article. I will post on my blog


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