Writing Craft


Friday, December 21, 2012

Carroll County News

In my last two columns, I suggested you make 2013 the year of the dream.

I gave you a recipe: Your life plus 3 things = progress! No more vague sadness, as the years pass and you don’t follow your passion. Three things. I discuss these from a writing standpoint, but they are applicable to any creative endeavor.

The first is Craft. Learn the techniques of your art. I suggested ways to do that in the December 5 issue, available on line. Then last week, I said that the second ingredient of the recipe for progress is Community, and I discussed how much can be gained from meeting regularly with a small group of writers.

After I sent that column to the paper, I wanted to suck it back, because I’ve decided that the term “Critiquing Group,” doesn’t describe the small groups we have developed in the Community Writing Program. I don’t like the critical, academic sound of “critique.” We foster a much gentler, nurturing environment, where newbies are supported as they take their first faltering steps into writing. Where they learn to apply the skills from the workshops to their own writing. Step by step.

But today’s column is about the third ingredient in the recipe for progress in 2013. This ingredient differs from Craft and Community. Both those require a third party. A teacher. Fellow writers. But today’s ingredient is just you.

The third ingredient that you must add to Craft and Community is Commitment.

I hate to be the one to break this bad news to you, but you don’t have time to write. When I started, I didn’t have time to write. Adults in twenty-first century America are crazy busy. If our jobs and other responsibilities don’t fill every waking minute, then we take on hobbies or projects or volunteer work. And if we still have some time, we fill it with television or Words with Friends or bonsai trees. Very few of us are sitting around with free hours.

Which means that if you really want to start writing, you have to give up something.

We can’t manufacture time by being more organized. That’s a persistent illusion. To make time for your true passion you must sacrifice something that yields time. Maybe you’ll be lucky and it will be something that you don’t enjoy that much. Mindless TV or having lunch with people you don’t really like.

But maybe you’ll have to dig deeper. Maybe you’ll have to choose between writing and some other worthwhile activity. The good is the enemy of the best. The only way to find time for our passion is to steal it.

So be realistic about what you can do. Make a prioritized list of all that you do and want to do. Where does telling your story fall on that list? Before TV? Then why are you watching TV?

I’d tell you all the things I’ve given up to write regularly, but it would scare you. Commitment is something that grows, and if you’re just starting out, then you might not see how writing can become so joyful and fulfilling that one would really give up watching the news. Or being responsible for every other family member’s happiness. I’ll take them to the doctor, but I no longer entertain them at their whim.

But it’s not enough to have the time. You have to use the time. Not check FaceBook or play Angry Birds.

And starting is hard. I’m coming to realize that more as I work with the Community Writing Program. That’s why I’m going to focus much more attention in 2013 on helping people begin. For writers with a story already underway, those Critiquing Groups will become Skill Application meetings. But for students just beginning, they will become Story Nurseries, where baby stories are born and nurtured.

2013 can be the year you stop wistfully thinking of writing and actually Write. The Community Writing Program can provide you with Craft and Community, if you can muster up just a little commitment. See our workshop schedule at communitywriting or contact me at or 479 292-3665. We’re registering for the 2013 workshops now.