Surfing Lessons

by Addie Boswell
Published on: May 26, 2013
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surfer-free-ocean-wallpapers-blirknetI find it harder to write in the summer. In Portland, the sun calls and the pace of life seems to pick up. There are great writing conferences to attend, not to mention arts fairs and music festivals, farmers markets and bike-in movies. The light lasts long, the kids are out of school, and nothing seems as important as sitting on the porch and simply enjoying life. And yet… writing must continue.

My critique group has taught me all manner of things about writing itself, but perhaps the more important lesson is how to “be a writer” in the larger sense. How to organize families and careers, deadlines and day jobs and dreams. And in seasoned authors, I sometimes glimpse a subtle and graceful equanimity that I yearn for, the same balance great surfers have. They seem to be rolling with the waves so fluidly it seems like they are actually in control of their destinies. How does one do that?

Develop your Creative Habit. The more creatives I meet, the more rituals I learn about. Writing in the morning vs. the night, 1000 words a day vs. six months on/six months off, a busy coffeeshop vs. a soundproof studio. One thing is always the same: successful authors have writing habits that they stick to, week in and week out.

Work with the Seasons. For many writers, that means winter is for for deep writing, and summer is for research and querying, short-term pursuits, or vacation. (While teacher-writers I know follow the opposite schedule.) I still feel guilty when I break from standard working hours, even though they never served my energy cycles very well. It takes constant reminding that a freelance life can be shaped to fit.

Cut loose things that aren’t working. It is difficult to leave an agent or critique group. Even harder, to put down a project you’ve invested months in. But saying NO may be the most powerful skill that I have learned yet. And when I think back on the great NO’s that my writer friends have made, I see how they have prospered by them in the end. As a career coach once asked, When you say NO to something, what does that allow you to say YES to?

Trust in Divine Timing. “Divine timing” is my favorite phrase personally, though you might think of it as serendipity or karma or market trend or just luck. Though i like to believe that a great story will always find its way, many parts of publishing are beyond mortal control. I have watched as books search for homes, languish for years, and get undermined by forces beyond their control. And then I’ve been amazed how those same books resurface, long after they’ve been given up for dead. The hardest answer may be the best: put the manuscript down and let fate go about its work. 

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