Random Thoughts

On making time to write

... on creative endeavors

by Elizabeth Samit

After eight months as a ‘laid-off’ older worker, I landed a job at a small start-up company in June of 2009. Unfortunately, I found myself ‘laid-off’ four months later, and collecting unemployment compensation yet again. Throughout these two years, I have absorbed myself not only in job-hunting, but in writing fiction.

Decades ago, in a class, I listened to a writing teacher say, “Writing is the only kind of work where you have to work at some other job just to WORK.”  

I never forgot that statement, which is sadly true for most people whose passion is writing stories or poetry. I also learned years ago that some countries financially support writers and artists, but this hasn’t been true in the United States since Franklin Roosevelt’s WPA — something that would most likely be considered a socialist program today.

Despite every reason to stop working on my short stories (albeit too long for submission to literary journals), I continue because it’s something I enjoy and gives me an escape from the draining obligations of daily life. With each story, I have reached a point where someone gave me feedback that enabled me to see its flaws and commence the revision process. Overall, this has felt like a more daunting task than the first or second drafts themselves. I have experienced each revision like peeling an onion — uncovering the underlying characters’ motivations, and the meaning behind the plot.  

Frequently, I arrive at a point of completion, only to discover another section that needs tinkering and fixing — a character with a subconscious motivation or conflict, an underlying theme I didn’t grasp earlier. Scenes are then added or removed, characters grow or diminish in importance, dialog is altered.

The writer’s life is known to often be solitary, private, and disciplined. Characteristics associated with Zen monks, it requires tremendous determination to persevere despite the high-pressured demands of a non-monastic life. Yet, taking the time and space to undertake a creative endeavor such as writing gives birth to personal rewards, while the piece takes on a shape and life of its own.  

Our society would be “poorer” without creative arts to inspire us, and fiction has been the mirror that enables us to envision the lives of others. After all, where would we all be without creative arts? It would certainly be a drab and colorless culture. Fiction has also historically influenced political change. Especially in these difficult economic times, we need to value and support each other to develop our creative selves.  

The pen is indeed powerful.

August 6, 2010

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