As writers, we are pressured, both by ourselves and well-intentioned family members / friends / critique partners / blog posts / articles / etc. to absolutely always, without fail, prioritize our writing. Though I don't disagree with the intention, as we do in fact have to make time to write if we ever hope to make it in this intense business, the outside world reminded me recently that this isn't always possible – and the remorse I felt was disproportionate to my so-called "crime."
Here's what happened:
Last week, as any faithful readers will know, was the one-year-anniversary extravaganza of Flash! Friday, which meant we writers were, for once, given 5 entire days to write our stories, and winners were promised a bunch of cool prizes. I looked at the prompt soon after it came up, and an idea started forming in some secret part of my mind, but I wasn't worried – I had 5 days. By Thursday I had a decent idea of what I would write about, but I wasn't feeling too well, so I decided to write on Friday, as I usually would.
Friday was coming along fine: I knew what I had planned when, including what time I had set aside to write. Then, a business call ran long – very long. Suddenly, the hours of time I had allocated to write were gone, and I had already committed to carpooling with some awesome people to our local NaNo Thank Goodness It's Over party that night.
When I realized I wouldn't be able to write my story, I was upset – for not foreseeing this timing snafu, for not taking my laptop with me on the drive and hoping there'd be internet at the event, for not feeling well enough earlier in the week to have written my story already. Worse, I felt guilty – for not posting to the contest, for not having a story to post for my blog, for not "prioritizing" my writing, and all within days of finishing NaNoWriMo and while on the way to celebrate the fact that I had prioritized writing a novel over just about everything else for 30 days. In fact, later that night, I even committed to starting / joining a third writing group. And still, when I came home, after midnight my time and many hours after the Flash! Friday deadline, I considered staying up to write my story, despite my fatigue.
Somewhere amidst that determination, I realized how ridiculous I was being. A daily writing habit is valuable, but it isn't more valuable than our loved ones or our health, or taking time to celebrate our accomplishments, or various life events, even non-emergent ones, which may sometimes draw us away, despite all the advice floating around out there constantly telling us otherwise.
Yes, it's unfortunate that I missed my opportunity to write for this prompt; yes, it's important to make time for our writing, to commit to it and prioritize it; yes, it is helpful never to find what we have already accomplished as sufficient, because there is always more work to be done and more stories to tell. But no, writing is not more important than absolutely every part of our life ever; and no, the world and our hopes of a writing career do not end if something occasionally keeps us from writing for a day.
Sometimes, the most valuable thing is to give yourself a break – from the guilt, the schedule, the internal pressure, or whatever else is making writing feel like a chore that keeps you from spending time with friends, or sleeping, or truly enjoying a meal. That room to breathe will almost surely bring with it inspiration.