I Need to Create to Survive

I need to create to surviveWhat is it about writing that engenders so much resistance? Why does doing the dishes hold more allure than sitting down to write? Yesterday, I was interviewing a fabulous new teacher who is going to be doing a series of non-fiction workshops for us. But more on the workshops in a future blog post.

As we talked, we found ourselves on the subject of resistance and why it surfaces so frequently for writers, and she said something that was quite profound.  She said, “The problem is that writing feels like a luxury.”  This statement fell on me with such accuracy that I had one of those epiphany moments, like the world suddenly made sense to me.

For the past several years, I’ve been running two businesses, and the pull to make both of them survive and support both me and the people who work for me has been all-consuming, often to the detriment of my own writing. She’s right. It’s because I’ve classified my own writing as a luxury.

But I allow myself many luxuries.  We all do things that could be considered luxuries. I have cable TV.  I have a car.  I meet friends for dinner at nice restaurants when I can afford it.  So why is my writing a luxury I dismiss in favor of those other luxuries?

What if instead, I accept that my writing is indeed a luxury, and one that I deserve and choose to engage in over things like watching TV or going out to dinner?  Or having a clean house?

I’m a strong believer that writers are called to write, and that being a writer is more of a vocation than a profession. The pull to get words on the page can be consuming and wracked with guilt when we don’t do it. Not writing can create stress and even depression. Even if we don’t want to feel guilty about not writing, that voice sits next to us with all its ‘should’ statements. You should be writing. You should be publishing. You should write today. I even get what I call the creative jitters when I’m not creating something, whether is writing or working in my art journal. So really, it IS survival for me. It IS a need, regardless of what Maslow says.  It’s okay that I need to create to survive. I am a creative. There’s a whole classification of people who are ‘creatives’ who understand this.

And yet, so many of us don’t write. Because we’ve classified writing as a luxury, and not even an important luxury.

Writing feeds us in a way that nothing else can.  We can be vulnerable on the page, we learn things about ourselves, we develop intimacy with ourselves and potential readers, we can change our lives through writing. We can change other people’s lives with our writing. That’s important! That’s basic.  That’s not luxury.

So I’m challenging myself to make writing a luxury that I deserve. Because it IS something I deserve. And so do you. It’s something that keeps me sane, and keeps away all of the horrible ‘shoulds’, and by extension, it keeps me from living in a state of anxious depression.

Say it with me: I need to create to survive.

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