Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Loving It

A-Z Blog Challenge:L
Post by Guest Blogger Pam Swanwick

Good writing often stems from being passionate about your subject, or your goals, or the act of writing itself. But loving writing is just one aspect of becoming a successful writer. Passion is also driven by your love of life, of stories in all their richness, of relationships in all their complexity, and of crafting meaning out of chaos. It’s important to love your life so that you have the energy, time, and resources to devote to writing. But how do you find the time to pursue your passion, and then the energy to write about it?

A related question is, do you have to suffer to be a good writer? Much great literature has arisen from tortured artists. “I am a great artist and I know it. The reason I am great is because of all the suffering I have done,” said Paul Gauguin. Of a Top 10 Tortured Artists list of authors, musicians, and artists, 60% are authors. Famous tortured writers include Hunter S. Thompson, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and of course, Earnest Hemingway.

But then, we don’t hear much about other authors who produced great art without great pain. Charles Dickens experienced his own dark beginnings which informed his writing, but there is scant evidence that he suffered for his art. Isaac Asimov, one of the most influential science fiction authors, wrote or edited over 500 books and, based on his multiple autobiographies, loved every minute of it. Even Stephen King announced that he was retiring and then found he couldn’t stop. In On Writing he said that it’s more painful not to write (paraphrased). Maya Angelou said “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”

But how can you possibly love all the complicated aspects of your life in order to free your passion for writing? There is no simple answer, and the answer likely differs for every individual. My solution has been to rethink my life, from top to bottom, and “reframe” my thoughts and actions into a perspective that supports my love of life and writing. Here’s my secret:

Don’t do anything if you don’t love it.

More specifically:
• If you must do it, find a way to put it into a positive framework.

• If it is not essential to your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, make the decision to change it.

Here’s how I have reframed my life:

• I never go to the gym to “work out.” Some people enjoy gyms, but I don’t. Instead, I’ve invested the time to find activities that I can love and practice for a lifetime. For me, that’s yoga, capoiera, and swing dancing.

• I’ve stopped reading so many pulp novels (which I very much enjoy) and watching so much TV. The satisfaction I get from meeting my (self-imposed) writing deadlines is so much more satisfying than the temporary escape I get from Gray’s Anatomy or John Grishham.

• I gave up a management position that inflated my ego and my bank balance. Instead, I took a technical writing job that gives me more time and energy to write.

• I’ve stopped hating the necessity of creating a platform for my work. Instead, I’m trying to embrace social media as an opportunity to stretch my writing range, communication skills, and technical expertise.

How can you love your life more? How can you wring more passion and productivity from it, which you can then channel into your own writing?

Pam Swanwick’s mission is to find fiction that feeds the spirit, review the best novels, and share them with others at and (coming soon).



Heidi Windmiller said...

Wonderful post!

I've reframed my writing life recently. I read a post where the author said that every part of writing should be enjoyable, and if you aren't enjoying it, then you aren't doing it right.

I sat back and thought...really? This person can't be serious.

But some part of me listened. I stopped writing/editing/researching whenever it became "not enjoyable". Since that time, the quality and the quantity of my work have improved. I've found enjoyment in those things that I used to struggle with before (editing). And I am, decidedly, loving it!

Karen Walker said...

Wow, I am so impressed with the choices you have made. I am constantly reviewing things in my life and making different choices. Not always easy, but definitely soul-satisfying.

Laila Knight said...

Wonderful post. Thank you. Life is mostly about the way we perceive it. If we sit around and pout about it all day, we'll never enjoy it.

I do go to the gym often, but while I might be doing one curl after another, I'm reviewing the next scene that I'm suppose to be writing.

Have a great day!

Pam said...

Heidi, Karen, and Laila: Thank you so much for your kind words! I hope some small part of my approach can be of use to you. BTW, this is my first "real" blog post, thanks to Kerrie :-). As a writer, it's very encouraging to get your feedback. Happy wriitng to you all.

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

I love your decisions. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share.

I also love a job that you don't have to take home with you! The money is not worth it.

Michelle Mach said...

Nice post!

I've never understood the people who moan about all the stages of writing all the time. Sure, there will be parts you like more than others, but if you hate it *all*, why are you doing it?

I've met a lot of great people online and for me, that makes the social media part worthwhile.

Patricia Stoltey said...

The conscious choice to love what we do goes a long way toward relieving stress and increasing happiness. Excellent post, Pam.

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