Last week I spoke at a Wellness Community Survivorship Symposium in Indianapolis, and before I went on, a panel of three other cancer survivors shared their stories. The first speaker was a dynamic dancer named Paula. (My daughter is a ballerina. I would recognize those power-calves anywhere.) She was absolutely terrific. Poised, passionate, and spot-on for the early morning message. After I spoke, I did a book signing. I was hoping Paula would hang around and chat with me and she did.
Not surprisingly, she was interested in writing a book, and I encouraged her to go for it.
"But how do you find the time?" she asked.
"It's not about the time," I told her. "It's about the space. Create a space for yourself to write, and the time will present itself."
When my sister, writer/producer Jas Lonnquist, first gave me the same advice I gave Paula, I had recently been diagnosed with lymphoma. My kids were 5 and 7 years old. We were living in a crummy (and by crummy I mean slummy) apartment that was supposed to be temporary and turned into the quicksand we were mired in for the year I was in treatment. The kids were stacked like cordwood in their bunkbeds. Gary's and my room was piled with U-Haul boxes. Even our closet was occupado with the biohazard containers and medical supplies needed for chemo.
But Jas's advice rang true. Creating that space in my home was an affirmation, an outward expression of the writing space I was consciously creating in my head, in my heart, in my life. I rescued a piece of laminated counter top from someone's trash in a nearby subdivision, procured three sturdy banana boxes from the produce department at Fiesta, bought an $8 folding chair at Hobby Lobby, and haggled for a 2-drawer file cabinet at a yard sale. Gary moved the sofa three feet or so from the wall, and in the sacrosanct little alley behind that couch, I finished my first two novels. In the twelve years since, I've staked my claim at every house. And once I started earning money as a writer, I insisted that my space include a door.
When someone starts to tell me they don't have the place, time, or opportunity to write that book they'd "give anything to write", I am dastardly unsympathetic. The fact is, we human beans find ways to do the things we truly want to do. The space isn't there to find. It has to be created, carved out, and defended with cannons and wolverines. Establishing that space is a powerful statement of intention. You're declaring to your family and yourself, This is my writing space. When I occupy this space, my purpose is to write.
The scary thing about doing that is, of course, then you have no excuse.
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