Integration

Life can be so busy that finding time to write seems impossible. But maybe we are looking at it the wrong way. Instead of seeing writing as something we do as “other,” maybe we need to view it as part of our everyday life. We get up, we eat breakfast, we go to work, we take care of our families, we write. No questions, no excuses, no fitting it in. It’s what we do.

Shaun McNiff, in his book Trust the Process, reminds us that some of our best poets – William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Anne Sexton, and Marianne Moore all created during the middle of their very busy lives. Williams was a doctor who wrote many of his poems on his prescription pad; Stevens was a vice-president of an insurance company; Sexton was a homemaker with two children; and Moore worked at a school and a library. These are just a few quick examples. Many, many other poets and writers had and have full lives aside from their writing.

As McNiff notes, “The unusual mannerisms of prominent artists tend to obscure the fact that many of history’s greatest creators, and the vast majority of people who express themselves creatively each day, live ordinary lives and work at relatively mainstream jobs. It is possible to create at the highest levels of quality while still working at a bank, teaching school, painting houses, or toiling in a factory.”

What one needs to do, McNiff suggests, is to “pass between worlds.” Use what is happening in your life when you are not creating as fodder for when you are creating. Write about your workplace, your children, your students, your customers, your friends, your volunteer work, your spiritual endeavors. Use it all. Make all the aspects of your life come together and nurture each other.

Of course, this means paying attention, not just when you are writing, but all day long with whatever you are doing. Notice the relationships between people, the give and take of choices in life, the natural connections between the different facets of your own personality. Capture the details of setting, dialogue, and intrigue that surround you every day – then pour it into your writing work. This way your writing opens you up to your own world and life, which may provide you with a number of surprises that may actually change the way you view your life and your writing.

The idea is to incorporate your life with your writing, and not to put “writer” over in a column separate from all the other parts of you. You may take five minutes, standing in line at Starbucks to write out a grocery list. You can use the same time to start a character sketch, the first lines of a poem, or think about how you are going to shift your protagonist’s expectations in the novel you are writing. It all adds up to a genuine life.

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