Mark Twain is known to have once said this: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
When we sit down to write, be it fiction or nonfiction or something entirely different, how important it is that we are cushioned by some life experience. How important it is to our careers as writers that we spend time in the trenches, digging through the dirt and getting dirty, beautifully dirty.
I think about this now, as I am deep in the trenches of motherhood and daily trying to find my way through new struggles and questions surrounding life with a new baby and a toddler. Part of me is anxious that my time to write is less, the demands of being mom more.
But right now, “Mom” is the life part that will inform and is informing my writing. And there are so many themes to explore with that: identity, stereotypes, love. The list goes on.
Last week, my cousin – who is also a journalist – encouraged me to write from my sweet spot. It’s that spot where you find your life thrumming, where you find the struggles to be had and the lessons to be learned. We had been chatting about our own recent struggles as writers, and mine entailed a potential story for Highlights Magazine that had fallen through. I suspect the magazine’s editor had turned down the piece because she saw through the curtain: there wasn’t an ounce of passion in it.
In other words, I had pitched an idea and written a story about something that did not at all inspire me, a topic I knew something about but had little connection to at this stage in my life. And I was pitching it to an audience with which I have little experience and, admittedly, little desire to reach.
I am not a children’s writer.
The story lacked the zest it needed because I was reaching too far for it. I wasn’t writing from that sweet spot.
Admittedly, the sweet spot, that place where I find I have so much to explore and process and so much learning to do, is not easy. But it is necessary.
It is necessary for me to grow, both as a person and as a writer. I am hard at work in the trenches, drumming up some good old life experience that I hope will make for some sparkling words and killer story ideas later.
Can you imagine what would happen to your writing if you didn’t get out and live a little, if you rode only the ripples of your ocean as opposed to the crashing waves?
Take time to write, always. But always, too, take time to live and to fully experience the moments – the great ones, the hard ones, and all of the ones in between.