A Quick Pep Talk on Being a Selfish Writer

I’m writing this blog two weeks before heading to the middle of the woods to go write in a log cabin for 7 days. I’m taking a week off work and leaving my boyfriend and cats behind to focus on my writing. For someone like me, who has trouble being kind to myself, this is a big deal.

Ever since I graduated from my MFA program, I’ve had difficulty putting my writing first. I think this is a problem for many writers (and women, in general). Being selfish has negative connotations and, for the most part, writers are an extremely empathetic group of people. Because of this, it’s easy for us to put other people and other obligations before ourselves and our passions. It has to be a conscious effort to actually sit down and write.

No, I’m not going to do the dishes right now.

No, I don’t need to answer that work email because it’s not urgent and it’s already 8PM.

No, I’m going to sit down and write. I’m going to do something for myself.

I’m sure there’s a more deep-seeded, psychological reason for being this way. And I’m positive some of it also has to do with the long standing thought that writing is just a hobby. That it’s an idle way for me to pass the time. But something I’m coming to realize is that if you want to be a writer, you need to be selfish about your time. And being selfish is OK.

Being selfish is never easy, but it’s something all writers should learn to do. At least to an extent. We need to protect our writing time. Sometimes that can be a challenge. Especially when you work a job that expects you to be “on call” regardless if it’s after 5PM or the weekend. Even worse is protecting your writing time from yourself. I can’t count how many times I’ve had the time to write, but then check decide to do some tidying up around my apartment. Or go to the gym because that’s a better use of my time.

Part of this is procrastination, sure. But as I mentioned above, I think another part of this is believing writing isn’t a “good” use of time. It’s that nagging voice inside all of our heads that tells us our passion will never be anything more than scribbles in a half-empty composition notebook, or a Word doc we’ll discover years later when cleaning our hard drive. This is the fear that keeps me up at night and compels me to direct my attention elsewhere.

But something I learned is this fear can be used to propel us forward. To give us the courage to be selfish about our writing. In an attempt to push through this fear, I applied to the weeklong writing program where I’m at right now. Even if you can’t get away for a week, try for an hour a day. Break that up into two half hours. Take your lunch break at work and do some writing. Be selfish about your dream. Because no one else will protect it in the way you can.

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