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Rather Belayed Butt-Kicking On Being a Writer

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I know I promised a butt-kicking back on Monday, and I was hoping to do a more involved one, but as I am being slowly devoured by Bologna preparations, this will have to suffice. I will warn you in advance that I will be slooooooooooooooowww at replying to comments (I have a bit of a backlog already, but I’m workin’ at it, I swear).

So. That said. I wanted to talk about how creative people work, how they play, how they manage their time. It’s something that’s been weighing on my brain lately because I have been full time at this now for about a year, and my bestest writing friend Tessa Gratton just went full-time as well. Before that I was full-time as a portrait artist, so I sort of knew what I was getting into, time-management-wise. What I didn’t realize would be challenging would be scheduling time to live.

I know what you guys are thinking. You’re thinking I’m talking about time to watch TV, kick back and read a book, sleep, go to movies. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about time to live, to have experiences, to have something to write about. I don’t mean that my next book is going to be autobiographical. But I do mean that as long as I sit in my office all day long, either writing or answering e-mails or composing blog posts, I am drawing from the same pool of life experiences that informed my last book.

And this is what I wanted to blog about. If you are a writer, it is just not good enough to be only a writer.

I think it’s why some authors say that they intentionally hung onto their day jobs. It’s not that writing is a lonely profession, exactly. It’s just that, after awhile, if it’s all you do, it’s like those pictures of snakes eating their own tails. You will mine the same experiences and character interactions until finally, they are done. We’re observers of the world, writers, and we can only make so many biscuits out of one batch of dough.

Would you look at the number of metaphors in that paragraph? 

Anyway, it’s why I tend to leave the house when I get stale. Go somewhere, do something new, see someplace different. Something that will feed me. It’s why I’m a writer, yes, but it’s also crucially important to me to keep being a musician, a composer, an artist, a mother, a wife, a dog-walker, a fast driver, a nature-lover, a horseback rider, a — fill in the blanks. Everything that I do other than writing, things that are me.

Because here is the other point of the post: being a writer is not really being anything at all. It’s like saying that you’re a talker. An observer. Yes, you may be able to do it very prettily, but really, my writing is my way of processing things. My storytelling is a way of forcing structure on top of something that is chaotic. It is not me, my desire to write. It’s a byproduct. The words I churn out are the dirty oil that keeps the gears running. And if that engine is never run, the oil stays exactly the same. If the gears don’t move, you don’t need the oil at all.

So be a writer. I’m proud to know many. But be something else, too.

Maggie Stiefvater
Hi, I'm Maggie Stiefvater

Professional novelist by day and artist by night. I live an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, and neurotic dogs. I’m the author of the Books of Faerie (LAMENT and BALLAD); the bestselling SHIVER trilogy (SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER), and THE SCORPIO RACES.

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