I recently completed an online survey in answer to a request by one of those writer’s magazines. They wanted to know what I wanted to read in their magazine. It took only minutes to click my answers to their straightforward questions. But when I finished, I screamed, “I just want to write.”
The purpose of the survey was to gain information for their readership: where I’ve been published, what areas of the writing world I visit, my social media inventory, my genre, if I have an MFA, do I attend conferences, if so, which ones, how about writer’s groups and how much money I budget per year on my writing studies. And there’s the one asking me if I’ve won any writing contests or received any awards. I began to second guess myself. Shouldn’t I always be taking writing classes to keep my skills sharp at all times? Maybe a workshop is better.
The questions made me realize how easy it is to lose focus on actually writing, the just-sit-in-the-chair-and do-it mentality. The survey questions were like taking stock of me as a writer with a measuring stick to see if I added up or even if I fit in with others on the dedicated writerly train. Up until my survey-taking moments, I considered myself a balanced writer, keeping abreast of current trends and discussions about the memoir, latest books published, webinars, blogs and email list posts while maintaining writing time. After I completed the survey, I felt deficient as a well-rounded writer in her field. What I lacked in conference attendance, contest submissions, and credentials earned, to name a few, was blatant.
As a writer, I’m pulled in many directions resulting in an overload of information. I’m inundated with reads in print and online about my craft, writing in general, publishing and get-yourself-out- there posts. All the input available to writers to become the best they can be is overwhelming, inflicting anxiety that I should be multitasking at a higher speed. Finding the time to actually write can take a back seat.
I have learned that my responsibility as a writer is to develop a highly tuned filter, customized just for me. It’s okay to pass on an instructional video, class, book or seminar. Developing an intellectual understanding of my field, specifically my type of writing and sharpening skills is all good. But if I don’t have the time to actually produce after all that knowledge and skill, I lose the very value I have come to nurture.
I read many writers’ responses to the most popular subject of why I write. “It’s just something I have to do . . . to make sense of my world . . . it’s part of who I am. Maybe writers need to write because it’s a self-evaluation thing where writer’s doubts about why they are even doing it in the first place need to be quelled and reassurances and validations need to be made through answering the question. Writers need to periodically loop back to embrace the value and reevaluate why they write in the first place, retreat to ground zero, one’s roots where it all started for them.
I need to stop, draw a line and divert my attention back to writing and recall those essays and reflections from writers who put a voice to their reasoning of why they write. I won’t be taking online surveys anytime soon. I prefer spending that time writing.