Being a writer shares a lot with being a mom and a housewife. It's something that requires work, but we technically have no boss, receive no paycheck (yet!), and have no real set schedule. By definition, the fact that we're creative means that the idea of structure makes us a little bit uncomfortable. It defies the process, right?
I picked up my "O" magazine this month, and while flipping through the pages I came across the article, "A Contract of One's Own" by Aimee Bender. To make a long article short, Bender talked about how she came to sign a contract with a friend who is a writer.
She would write five days a week for an hour. As a firm reminder, every day, when she finished her hour, she would e-mail me one word: Done, and at some point during the day, I would e-mail back Check.
Bender talks about the reasoning behind this arrangement, which makes perfect sense to me. She writes, "Writing every day can be a powerful action, a gesture of belief in one's own imagination..."
YES! Love that.
She also said, "...the more I can externalize the ritual, the easier it is to submit to it. It's all a declaration against the regular dread I used to feel all the time when I wasn't writing."
When you "externalize the ritual" and put it into someone else's hands (even if that "someone else" is a contract on a piece of paper) then you eliminate the questions that slog up your mentality when it comes to writing- you don't have to worry about the how, the when, the where, the why, etc.- you've already spelled it all out for yourself. You don't have to find the time, you've made the time. Bender writes,
The integrity of the system itself is actually more important to me than the daily content, because content will return, and it mostly just needs a reliable container in which to put itself.
If you do something like she did with her friend, and make a contract, a promise to yourself, then you give your dreams, your vision, and your creativity a "reliable container." If you're thirsty and you believe it will rain, you put out something to catch the rain. If instead you wait for the rain to start then you might be too busy doing something else to catch any of it and those precious drops will slip away.
Ironically, this is the way the rest of the world works. This is why companies have times that employees clock in, and set days and times for events, and have routines and schedules. We see it in other aspects of our lives as well: we don't arrive at church on Sunday morning hoping they get the Sacrament squeezed into the 3-hour block- it's a ceremony with a dedicated time slot, no variation, just like every other church meeting.
Bender writes that, "guilt and dread are, after all, creativity killers." Standardization of your writing time removes both the dread (because when it's writing time, it's writing time, period.) and guilt (because when you're not doing it you're not supposed to be doing it).
On the other hand, she also mentions something I'd never thought of- she says that when her time is up, it's up, regardless of whether or not she's 'on a roll'. She believes in "leaving the work when the going's good so that there's excitement when the writer sits down the next day."
I apologize, I know this was a long post, but this article excited me and I wanted to share my thoughts on it with all of you, in hopes that you might find some inspiration for accomplishing your writing goals this summer.
I would be happy to be anyone's "contract partner" if desired, and I would love to have someone do the same for me (taking into account that I will need some "maternity leave" next month!). The basic "Writer's Contract" is available online at oprah.com.