Flying like a writer

I’m not a serious birdwatcher, but you’ve seen enough photos of birds posted here to know they fascinate me. During my recent Christmas visit with family on Vancouver Island, we took a few excursions to the beach with our cameras. The scenery was spectacular, but the following photos aren’t some of my better shots. I snatched them for a specific reason.

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It was intriguing to watch how the different species flew. When the eagles weren’t gliding in the wind currents or landing in a tree to watch for a meal, they were launching themselves directly into the ocean to grab it. Unless a school of herring attracted a raucous crowd, single gulls flapped and flew aimlessly in the breeze, eventually landing in the waves or on the rocky shore. The ducks rose together from one spot and skimmed above the water until they found another promising place to settle.

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I could often identify the species from a distance, just by the way they behaved. It made me wonder what my habits say about me to onlookers. I’m not sure I want to know!

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As a serious introvert, I tend to enjoy my solitude, so I’m not overly social. I can deal with groups of people when I must, but I’m happy to stay holed up for days at a time with my computer and a head full of fictional characters. When I hesitate over an invitation, it could look like stand-offishness (is that a word?), or unfriendliness to those who reasonably expect I would look forward to an entertaining occasion.

I don’t expect people to understand my reluctance, especially since I’m not very good at explaining in a way that wouldn’t leave them feeling rejected or worse, insulted. If I were an author under contract it might be easier to use work as a legitimate excuse. As an ‘occasionally published writer’, however, I’m sure the time I spend writing is viewed as a voluntary thing, and choosing it over a dinner invitation or concert raises eyebrows.

Attending writers’ conferences takes me out of my comfort zone as far as crowds go, but being immersed in a group made up entirely of authors, agents, editors, and publishers is invigorating. I have no fear of being misunderstood — they all ‘get’ what I do, why I do it, and how.

In other company, I expect I’m viewed as a bit of a strange bird, darting about in pursuit of a goal that doesn’t seem to produce visible results.

Maybe that’s why I sometimes cross my fingers behind my back (awkwardly… arthritis is so uncooperative), and deftly respond to an invitation by saying, “I’d love to join you… if only I didn’t have a prior commitment.”

I have a long-standing commitment to my writing, so that’s not exactly telling a lie, is it? Do you suppose it would be considered a sin?

How do you protect your precious writing time?

~

The freelance writer is a man who is paid
per piece or per word or perhaps.

[Robert Benchley]

~

How thin and insecure is
that little beach of white sand
we call consciousness.
I’ve always known that in my writing
it is the dark troubled sea
of which I know nothing,
save its presence,
that carried me.
I’ve always felt that creating
was a fearless and a timid,
a despairing and hopeful,
launching out into that unknown.

[Athol Fugard]

~  ~  ~

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5 thoughts on “Flying like a writer

  1. Shari Green says:

    I’m really not very good at protecting my writing time. Perhaps I under-value what I’m doing? (And if *I* don’t take it seriously, why should anyone else?) Lately, though, I’ve been meaning to treat it more as a job than a hobby — maybe that should be a New Year’s resolution for me! 😉

  2. Jenn Hubbard says:

    You don’t owe people explanations for not accepting invitations. And writing *is* work and *is* a commitment.
    Nobody else will carve out this time for you; you are right to do it for yourself.
    If you feel the need to justify it, then just think of it this way: God has given you a gift for words, and you feel obligated not to waste it. 🙂

  3. pastordt says:

    This is beautifully put, Carol, and YES you have the right to call yourself a writer, to say ‘no’ to what distracts and to keep flying as only you can fly. I like what Jenn said up there – spot on!

  4. Carol says:

    Thanks for the affirmation, Jenn and Diana! While I still feel guilty, I’m getting better at saying things like, “Sorry… thanks for the invitation but I’m writing and I don’t think I could get out of my characters’ heads long enough to join you.” They think I’m kidding, but I’m not. LOL.

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