Say Yes to Your Writing Self

I know this kitchen is gorgeous, but don't even think about making those muffins. Get to your writing.

I know this kitchen is gorgeous, but don’t even think about stopping here to make those muffins. Get to your writing.

Every day we distract ourselves from becoming the artist we want to be. And it’s easy to do.

If I am without a specific purpose, I sidetrack into household projects like cleaning the kitchen walls. I let other creative endeavors or commitments to family and friends take up the day, and I don’t get to the writing.

Pat Schneider, one of my favorite writing teachers, describes the commitment she made to her writing self in her book Writing Alone and with Others.

Not only do our busy little activities and our more serious commitments nibble at our concentration. Other forms of artistic expression may distract us. It occurred to me one day that my mother was at heart an artist. She made quilts. She crocheted tablecloths. She made children’s clothes and Christmas ornaments and embroidered wall hangings and intricate ornaments for the tree. Sometimes she wrote. A little bit. She did a lot of different things a little bit. At the moment I recognized this about my mother I myself was standing beside my sewing machine planning to piece a quilt—a project that would require hundreds of hours of concentrated time.

Suddenly I saw I had no choice. I said to myself, you can’t have it all. You have little time after parenting four children—you cannot crochet and preserve jellies and bake bread and make quilts and also write. The other forms of personal expression are things I truly like to do, but that day I folded up the quilt pattern and scraps of cloth. I stopped making jelly. I gave up sewing forever. Because I most wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be an artist, and I knew I would have to be faithful to the practice of my art (Schneider 53-54).

I like the word nibble in the opening sentence.

Nibbling away at birthday cake sounds harmless enough until you’ve eaten all twelve pieces on the platter. It is the same with the ways in which we use our time. Nibbling at a variety of tasks sounds harmless enough until it adds up to a week or a year or a lifetime and you look back and wonder, why didn’t I ever ________?

Becoming a writer means saying yes to yourself. You have to say yes to staring at the blank page, setting goals, drafting and re-drafting, and risking rejection. You have to say yes by making time to do the work. But what is most challenging is facing reality: when you say yes to being a writer or a [insert your own ambitions here] you say no to something else. It is a lesson I have to learn over and over again.

So, what say you, dear reader? What are you distracting yourself from today? Comment below. Or don’t waste another minute. Skip scrubbing that kitchen wall and get to your writing.


Check out other writers who are writing every day this November for NaBloPoMo here.

3 thoughts on “Say Yes to Your Writing Self

  1. Hey there, I found you via the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

    I’m trying a thing they call the Pomodoro technique. You turn all the distractions off, set a timer for 25 minutes and focus in on a task. When the timer goes off, you have a 5 minute break. I am finding this really works for me. 🙂

    I used to do this in 2 hour blocks, twice a day. But the 25 minutes is much more manageable.

    As part of NaBloPoMo I try to comment on as many participating blogs as I can, and I also add participating blogs to my feed reader. So I’m just dropping by to let you know I’ve added your blog to my feedreader, I’m reading you loud and clear.

    I have created three bundles on Inoreader so that bloggers can easily visit other participating NaBloPoMo bloggers which you can find here –

    Your blog is in the second bundle.. I have a link up going at my place so my readers can find participating blogs which you are more than welcome to add your blog link to.

    Looking forward to seeing your posts. You may see me drop by again during November, but it might be December before I finish my first drop by to blogs if I don’t get faster at leaving comments. 🙂

    Happy NaBloPoMo to you!


    • Good day, Snoskred. I am looking into the Pomodoro technique, per your recommendation. Thank you for contacting me and for reading a post or two. I visited Wales in 2003 when I attended a writing retreat there. It was at a place just outside St. David’s. I would spent free time enjoy the view of the water and biking the countryside. Beautiful. A wonderful place to write. Happy NaBloPoMo to you, too.


  2. Oh I so relate to this! I do it all, but not all at once. I do a lot. And then I sit around belittling myself for what I didn’t do, while others are astonished by how I did so much. Oh it’s wretched. I’ve been this way forever. One time, my husband went on a 9-week training exercise, and my therapist gave me 9-week homework to not do housework from 8-4. I was like, “Wha???” She said exercise, write, nap, play, eat, take a bath, go to appointments, cook and bake if I wanted to, but NO cleaning, no laundry, no ironing from 8-4.
    It helped. At first it about killed me, but I agree with her. So in my 8-3 time (now), I can do quite a bit, and never think about the cleaning. I was surprised to find 4-8 offered enough time to do everything cleaning and still spend time with my family. Too much energy gets focused on thinking about what must be done.
    I cheat rarely. Rotate some laundry. Mop the floor. Very rarely 🙂
    Writing and Quilting, baking and cooking all fit nicely between 8-3.


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