These past few months I’ve been taking some time off from writing. I just finished my most recent novel and frankly, I’m a little burned out. Taking a break from what you love can give you a little perspective though – so here is my list of the top five reasons why I love being a writer.
1. Being a writer has given me a lifelong sense of purpose. Since I was at least 5 years old, I’ve known that I was a writer. I never mistook this for a career path or a job – I still needed to figure that out like everyone else. But I’ve always known what I’d be doing for the rest of my life. That’s a powerful thing.
2. Writing organizes my thoughts. Without writing I often feel like a soul adrift in the sloshy sea of my brain. When my thoughts shift from one thing to another without coherence for hours at a time, I feel a little dizzy. When I’m working on a writing project, I think and daydream in a more organized way. I conserve my moments of reflection for my work.
3. Rarely is there wasted time in the life of a writer. I’m seldom bored. The random moments of my life feel connected, strung together like a necklace of bright Murano beads. Recently for my work (not as a writer), I spent the day at an electrical lineman’s school. A week later I decided a character in my next book needed to be lineman. When you’re a writer all of life feels like important research.
4. The conversations with random strangers are more interesting. My sister is a nurse. Random people stop her all the time looking for a medical diagnosis. For example, her waitress at a restaurant once discussed her bladder infection as she handed my sister her burger and fries. Thank god that never happens to me! When strangers hear I’m a writer, they usually want to tell me their most interesting story about themselves – or ask me how to get published. I can handle that.
5. Novels are all about character development. Plot is important, but it is meaningless without people interesting and real enough to move it along. To develop characters you need to develop your ability to listen to and understand real human people all around you – their motivations, their concerns and fears. I can’t think of any other aspect of life – work, play, marriage – where this isn’t a useful tool to hone from a young age.
So these are my top 5 reasons that I will go back to writing. The “big break” as I call it – my six months off from writing has a few more months to go. I’m looking forward to going back, but I’m also enjoying where I am now.