My eight year old son
is has been studying Suzuki piano since he was four. In the Suzuki method, you
practice every day and, although Harrison is
very good at piano, most days he hates to practice. Sometimes it is a little
easier to get him to play if he has an audience to perform for, so, when our
friend Kirsten stopped by the other day, we asked Harry if he would play for
her. He looked at me and whined, “Do I have to?”
Kirsten’s response was immediate. “You don’t have to. You get to.”
That one word change made me think about my own attitude towards "practice."
Most days I am eager to write, but there are days when I’m a lot like Harry. Getting myself to sit down at the keyboard is a lot like getting myself to jump into a cold pool: once I’m in, I get used to it, but I always have to force myself to take that first step. Prying myself away from social media, putting down my magazine, even setting aside the housework feels like stepping off a diving board. Often I look at a page of edits or a guest blog post that needs writing or a tough section of a chapter and ask myself, “Do I have to?”
That’s when my friend’s words come in handy. They represent a fundamental shift in our way of looking at the work. Because the truth is, you don’t have to. No one is forcing you to write. No one is holding a knife to your back and telling you to pursue your dream. You could walk away from it right now and go back to some other job. You could watch Firefly reruns all night and go to Target all day and never write another word. You actually don’t have to.
But you get to. You have the privilege of having characters who have chosen you to tell their story as best you are able. You have the fun of having readers who are asking for more. In my case, I even have the privilege of writing for a stretch of time every day while my kids are at school – not because we are rich, but because our family has decided that me pursuing my writing is just as important to our family’s quality of life as the money from a day job could ever be. Now, maybe none of those things are perfect: The story isn’t flowing through you the way you wish it would. There aren’t enough readers, or there are too many to handle, or they don’t love your stuff the way you wish they would. You don’t write as much or as well or as often as you wish. But even in its imperfection, the writing life you are living right now is something that some other writer might kill for. Even you yourself, at some earlier point in your writing journey, wished and hoped and prayed for these circumstances that you are living now. And now you get to live them. You get to.
It’s a perspective check I’m trying to apply to a lot of things in my life. Why do I have to get older? I don’t have to, I get to – many people don’t get that chance. Why do I have to get out of bed in the morning? I’m lucky to get the opportunity.
When I was getting Crossfire ready for publication, I noticed something important: The acknowledgements were even longer than they were for Darkride. Although I felt like I had a lot of support writing my first book, by the time my second book came out my “village” had grown exponentially with the addition of enthusiastic book bloggers and readers and author friends I met online and in “real life.” And I decided that that should be my main goal with each new book: not to sell more or to collect more “likes” or even to write better, although all those things are important and good. But even more important is growing that supportive community and keeping that attitude of gratitude by keeping that one thing at the forefront of my mind:
Today I get to write.