What To Write In Your One Wild and Precious Life?

Lost time is never found again.

Benjamin Franklin

Time is precious. What will you write with the time you have? If you are like most writers, you find ideas everywhere and the challenge is choosing which ideas to follow.

Advice is easy to find.

Fiction writers are frequently told not to worry about what subject matter will sell well because something else will be hot by the time you finish your manuscript, and lots of people find ways to argue either that what you love is what you know or that what you know is too restrictive to use as writing guidance.

I have been struggling with a variation on the ‘What should I be writing?’ question. Should I really be spending my precious writing time learning the craft of writing quality fiction? Or should I concentrate on writing non-fiction? In the realm of fiction, I am still working on my million words of dreck. But, in several areas of non-fiction writing, I have already put in a lot more time. I am probably more likely to be published if I focus on forms that are closer to what I have already learned how to do well.

But, and I think this is crucial, the fiction is demanding to be written. So, I write it because I love it, because at some level I must to satisfy my soul.

I invite you to do the same.

Even if you write what you are good at to make a living, making space to do what calls to your heart is important. Even when it means going back to the start and being a beginner again.


Posted on October 21, 2011, in Blogging, Creativity, Play, This Writing Life, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Oh, this is such a good post. I have struggled with this too. Does a person write about vampires because that is what’s selling? (Although I think they may be on their way out already!) Or do you write about a population from another planet, even though you don’t see many of those kinds of books on the best-seller list But, that is the story that’s rumbling around in your head, trying to get out. Great post, Kate!

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      I am personally very glad that vampires are out. My first novel attempt was a vampire story but using a different take on vampires than has been trendy since Anne Rice introduced Lestat. Now that zombies and dystopia are trending, my approach looks appealing again and I may get reinspired to finish it.

  2. “So, I write it because I love it, because at some level I must to satisfy my soul.”

    Good for you, Kate. I know this is something you’ve been wrestling with the last few months, and I’m glad you know your path now.

    As you know I’ve really centered in on non-fiction, but the “publishable” angle had me leaning in the last couple of years toward writing a policy book, because that’s where I’ve built a name for myself and have some experience. But I’ve decided I’ll keep doing that for a living but focus on getting “published” in the book and journal sense with creative non-fiction, because it satisfies my soul. If we write only because we think in the short term it’s a quicker route to being published we might as well not do it.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      Thanks, Patrick.

      Finding time to do both what is marketable and what feeds my soul has proven impossible over the past few years. Figuring out where my priorities lie has been a challenge. I am very lucky that my husband’s job means I have the luxury of using my available time for personal projects rather than for immediate income-generation, but I still feel like I’m not contributing when I am not earning money.


  3. I love this post and I totally agree, Kate. I’m a much happier writer because I finally listened to the call of what I most want to write. I’ve done plenty of the “right” things to develop my writing career, but they were often driven by the need to make income or the desire to help other writers. And I’ve gained invaluable experience from all that (plus some enjoyment and satisfaction along the way). But when I turned back to my travel writing and screenwriting and began treating them as more than just hobbies that get my leftover time, I became so creatively unleashed it started spilling over into everything I do. Now there are not enough hours in the day to do it all. And I love the feeling that I’m risking failure to go for my passion.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      Go you!!

      I discovered many years ago that not following my passion leads me to dark places in my psyche, but it is still hard to risk failure even for my passion, which explains why too few of my stories are out on submission right now. Gotta fix that.


      • I know exactly what you mean about the dark places in the psyche you can fall into when you’re not following your passion. I’ve been there all too often.

        And, yes, the risk is scary too. Even though I’m exhilarated to be pushing my limits right now, I’m also nervous. Just sent my second script in for coverage (Hollywood term for critique) to a company where the readers have all read for major studios – and some of them have had their own scripts produced. These will be the most influential eyes I’ve ever had on one of my scripts, and I’m nervous about the critique too. But I think I’d be going backwards if I didn’t take this step.

      • P.S. Good luck with getting some more of your stories out on submission! I’ll be cheering for you. Tweet me when send out the next one – I’d love to hear about it.

  4. I was struggling with this very issue this morning, actually asking for divine inspiration as to what I should concentrate on. I adore all my non-fiction work, and sometimes it leaves little energy to work on my fiction, which is my true love. This morning was one of those “why bother” mornings….and then just as I asked for direction, ideas started flowing out. Which seems like pretty good direction to me, so I’m back at it. And, that is so often the process for me–wondering why I bother and then recommitting to writing what I love, if only because it is so important to me.

    • Kate Arms-Roberts

      It’s always exciting when those ideas flow like that.
      There isn’t time to do everything and making time for the stuff we love can be hard.
      I am struggling with maintaining editing momentum right now, but each time I settle in and make progress, I remember why I started.

    • Charlotte, I love the way you moved out of that block! Sometimes the simplest things can be the most powerful, can’t they? (Plus, you picked a powerful energy to ask for help.)

      A couple months ago when I was going through one of my own “Why do I bother?” phases, I saw this quote on Twitter:

      A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. — Maya Angelou

      That had such a positive impact on me – simplifying all my issues and reminding me of the core reason why I write – I put it at the top of my blog so I’ll be sure to see it whenever I need that reminder.

    • Kudos, Charlotte, I’m right there with Milli.

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