We still sit down and get to work.
But what glorious work; this all-consuming art, this heart-wrenching craft.
Truth is, writing's a pretty good gig--with some noteworthy caveats: Isolation, lack of structure, frequent rejections, and an inward-looking, sedentary life; occupational hazards that led to the demise of gifted authors like Woolf and Hemingway.
In making the shift from veterinarian to writer, I wondered whether I'd wind up hunched over the keyboard, swearing at faceless agents blind to my talent, stuffing myself into the same sweats I'd worn all week, skipping showers and overeating my way to an early grave.
Happily, my experience has been just the opposite. I'm healthier--physically, emotionally, and spiritually--than when I devoted sixty hours a week to my veterinary practice.
Oddly, I've found spirituality is the area I can't afford to neglect.
I can skip my run, eat junk food, or stay up all night and still write fairly well (at least in the short-term). But when I forget to be grateful, when I'm too busy to notice--and then express--my profound wonder at the rightness of the universe, my writing falters.
Maybe, as some have suggested, we need inner silence to hear our Muse.
I prefer to think of it as taking care of what's important--or as Dr. Covey puts it: Sharpening the Saw.
This used to seem backward to me. As someone driven to succeed, I used to make lists for myself, convinced I'd be happy once I crossed the last item off my agenda. For years it worked--sort of.
Attending college, earning my veterinary degree, owning a practice--even learning to write fiction-- became badges of honor; proof of my right to take up space in this world.
Problem is, there's always another list.
That's where sprituality comes in. When I put my focus on seeing--and appreciating--my tiny-but-significant place in the universe, I'm free to pursue the best course for me, regardless of whether that course leads to my old definition of success.
Do I want to see my work published? Heck yeah!
But far more important than selling books, I want my stories to move readers; to make them feel strongly--and maybe think differently--about the themes we explore together.
When I nurture my spiritual self, writing a beautiful story matters more than being recognized. And, strangely, it's also easier to write through distractions like a barking dog or blaring television.
But if I neglect spirituality, I forget how much I love writing. Soon, I'm focused on achieving the great prize--publication--and snap at my kids for interrupting me. "Be quiet," I say. "Mommie has work to do. Once I get an agent I need to finish the next book in the series...and the one after that. Then there's the blockbuster thriller sitting in my idea drawer. My God, that'll take a year to write, so I'd better hurry..."
Can you see the lists? I can.
Yes, it's a business. And I do take it seriously. Every day, rain or shine, good mood or bad--I sit down and write.
But when I take time to sharpen the saw, the work is effortless. The saw zips smoothly through the heart of the tree, chips pile up with amazing speed. I'm making real progress, and it feels good. I inhale deeply, smell the pines and the sharp tang of fresh sap, hear the birds in the trees above.
I close my eyes, feel the sun on my face, and think, "Man, I love this job!"
Cheers...and Happy Writing!