In my last post I made a brief recommendation for the book “Writing Alone and With Others” by Pat Schneider. I want to add a bit more about it.
I mentioned the word “realistic” when I talked about the advice Schneider gives; to me that’s what makes this book so valuable. Perhaps the book speaks to me because the author has faced the same struggle I have of trying to find writing time while caring for children. She helped me see in a concrete way that finding time to write is a matter of priorities. It sounds obvious, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I took a hard look at the choices I make.
An anecdote from Schneider’s own life sticks with me. She shares the moment she had her own epiphany. She was stressed about her lack of opportunities for writing, and at the same time she was trying to piece a quilt. Then she had one of those vaunted moments of clarity when she decided she could make the quilt or she could write, but she didn’t have time to do both. She put away the quilt. This is what I mean by realistic. She doesn’t feed aspiring writers false promises, telling us we can do it all – be a devoted parent, a fabulous chef, pursue every other art and craft that catches our interest and still write. You do have to choose between writing and other activities.
Schneider gives equal respect to people who would choose the quilt over the writing; she only points out that you need to be clear with yourself what you are choosing and why. This helps me make my peace with not writing at times, too. Some things are a higher priority for me. Daughter’s choir concert? No brainer. Sleep? I may choose to write instead. Knitting, as all of my friends seem to do these days? No thanks, I’d rather spend my time writing than learning to knit.
There’s so much more to the book: lots of tips on writing groups, critiquing in a helpful rather than hurtful way, writing prompts, encouragement to explore what works for you in your life, how to deal with naysayers. But for me, the lesson on priorities made the most difference.