Ask a Writer: How Do You Find Your Drive to Write?
“I’ve been following your blog for awhile now and I really want to be a writer. I don’t seem to have time to write, so I’m wondering how do you find time do write (and keep up with social media) even when you’re really busy? Did you ever feel like you didn’t have time to write? How did you change that? Where did you find the drive to write?”
Looking for the Drive to Write
When I was an undergrad, I met a guy named Michael who was insanely quirky, his head was in the clouds all the time and he looked more homeless than hipster, but he stood out to me. He stood out because was infinitely more dedicated to writing than any of the people in my Creative Writing program, including me. I’d always considered myself extremely dedicated to writing but Michael put me to shame.
Michael and I had a mutual friend, so eventually I started getting to know Michael. It was during one of our after-class chats that he told me about his writing habits. He told me how many words he’d already written in his not even 22 years of life. I don’t remember the number, but I remember my jaw dropping to think any undergrad could already have an entire book or two written. Especially Michael--he was a great writer--so I knew this wasn’t just some sloshed-together project. It was real writing. Then he told me how he wrote. He explained that he didn’t write every single day like some writers are so famous for saying writers should do, but when he was working on a new story or book he worked on it all day and all night, often for weeks. And he repeated this process several times a year. Writing for weeks, taking a few weeks off, then writing again for weeks. It worked for him. Michael’s dedication stuck with me during that semester and I wondered why I barely had the drive to finish two short stories a week during my semester.
Later that year he told me he was moving to Portland. I knew why but I asked him anyway.
“For writing,” he said. “It’s a city full of writers and it’s cheap enough to live there which means I can spend more time writing and less time working.”
I expected nothing less from him than the dedication it took to move to another city if that’s what it took to make writing work for him.
Long after Michael moved away, I started my blog. It’s the single most important thing I’ve done for my writing career and through it I met my “inner Michael.” While blogging I developed the habit of sitting down every day and writing something. It wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t well edited. But it was done and it was sent off into the world where it connected with some very magical beings: readers. These readers started watching for more and day by day these readers grew in number until I called them an audience. I was excited. My dream of being a writer had finally come true. I could send my work to them every day and they would laugh and cheer and clap. Life. Made.
Eventually my blog was read by literary agents, reporters, and television producers and I was contacted by quite a few of them. Hell, the Vice President of some division in VH-1 called me. In fact, I ignored her assistants for so long, she personally picked up the phone to call. It didn’t work out with her, but what that experience (and many others like it) taught me was that people were reading my blog and beyond that, they were connecting with my words and with me.
This is where things got exciting for me. I realized that blogging was the thing that helped me go from a dreamer to a do-er. Blogging helped me cross that impossible looking gulf between having no time to creating time for my writing. It was the missing link I was looking for. It helped me ignite a passion inside of me where I dreamed ‘What’s next?’ instead of being discouraged with the page thinking ‘That’s all?’ In so many ways, blogging has taught me how to be a better writer, a better editor, and how to write every single day. It helped me find my “inner Michael” and most importantly: it helped me find my drive.
About Lisa Kerr:
Lisa Kerr is the creator of the blog My Cult Life, which has been featured on NPR, HuffPo Live and Philly.com. Her work has been published in New York magazine, Huffington Post and various literary magazines.