I’m writing this in the corner of our office in the house we’ve lived in the past three and a half years. My husband and I have begun taking this house apart, because we’ve decided that it’s time to stop saying “someday” about our dream to live in Berlin. We’d run out of reasons not to go, and so the transition begins.
We told our families and friends, I’ve given notice at my job here in LA, but I’m lucky that the podcast, my clients, and my writing world all come with me. This is a move that will make more space for the creative work we both want to do.
As we’ve been shedding the astonishing amount of stuff that has accumulated over the past twelve years in LA (in my case) and the past 20 years here (in his), we’ve been struck by how easy it has been to let it all go. The stuff, that is. The hundreds and hundreds of books we thought defined who we were and the weird clothes I haven’t touched or remembered were there in the back of the closet. It’s been like shedding a skin.
What has been much harder is spending time with all the amazing people we love in this city, knowing it won’t be so easy to see them in person going forward. We’ll always come back to LA – we both have family here as well as friends that have become like family. But they won’t be able to grab a dinner last minute. This is the price we pay for this change.
I have noticed that something happens to me about every ten years, where I get itchy. To go into the woo-woo, I’m year of the snake and I think I need to do a big shed every decade or so. Turning 40 has meant taking a hard look at what I really want to accomplish in my life with the time that I have. I’m not old, but I’m aware that life doesn’t last forever.
I’ve been working on some book or other since I was 25 and life has always been making other plans that are just a little bit more urgent than finishing the book in question. I spent most of my 20s in San Francisco, a city even more financially unforgiving than the Los Angeles of my 30s, and before that I was still in School. It goes so fast.
The podcast has been such an incredible gift to me over the past two years, providing a reason to talk to so many incredible writers about how they got their books done. After over 100 conversations, I think I can boil down the one piece of advice that will help anyone finish a book:
I can hear the objections building already, because they’ve been screaming in my head for decades now:
But I need to make money. But I’m in a relationship. But I have kids.
Yes, and. It’s impossible to write 24 hours a day. Maybe someone does it, but I don’t advise it. What I have learned is necessary is to plan for your writing first.
Need to make money? Of course – we all do. If we’re fortunate enough to have jobs that aren’t 12 hour shifts, then allocate the leftover time you will give writing first.
Same with your kids. Every parent I know who is also a writer has a deal they’ve worked out with their partner, or their sleep if they don’t have a partner helping them raise their family: writing gets scheduled first in the time that is there.
I haven’t been taking this advice for myself. Los Angeles has become a place that doesn’t allow for the windows needed to write. The time in the car, the amount of hours we need to work, and the fact that I am less and less able to tolerate the heat of the summers has pushed writing further down the list.
And I haven’t been ok with that happening.
I can’t in good conscience lead groups and clients through structures to help them write their books if I’m not allowing the space to finish my own.
As we sell and donate so many of our things, and place our favorites in good homes to be babysat, I feel both terrified and so much lighter.
Because I have realized what I have been doing for years: I’ve been buying stuff to console myself for not writing. And all this stuff in the garage and the closet and the cabinets is evidence that I needed a pick-me-up in order to tolerate another day not putting writing first.
I don’t think it’s necessary to move over 5,000 miles away to reach these conclusions, but it is a good catalyst if you’re up for it. Don’t make this mistake. If you’re called to write, please write. Not just for the rest of us who will benefit from what you share, but for yourself and the way it will change your life as you are writing.
Writing makes me a better person, without question. And for all the times I’ve felt it’s selfish to take time away from other pursuits to be alone and write, I’ve realized that it’s actually even more selfish not to.
Sometimes you have to let go of much that is familiar to remember what you must accomplish in life.
In yoga the other day, my teacher shared the following thought as we were all in savasana at the end:
“Our time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
I pass it on to you. Don’t wait to write. The someday you are waiting for to start is today.