I'll admit it, I have been rather AWOL from this blog recently. Partly because of start-of-the-semester stuff, including upwards of 24 hours of orientation activities over the past week. But I have also been trying to pay myself first, like my mother taught me. She meant money, of course; the idea that you should save at least a little something each month before you pay the rest of your bills. But I'm talking about writing. In the midst of everything else going on in this first busy week of the semester, I have made a concerted effort to privilege writing time. For me this means carving out time in the mornings even when there are piles of things on deck at the office and dozens of administrative e-mails to answer. So far, so good. I am making slow but steady progress on the book chapter I have been working on.
My grad seminar on critical and historical methods meets for the first time next week. One of the readings for the first day of class is a short essay by Joan Bolker called "Getting Started Writing." Bolker echoes the "pay yourself first" principle when she recounts a key piece of advice she received from a beloved writing teacher: "Write first." Bolker explains, "By this she meant, make writing the highest priority in your life. But she also meant those words literally; that is, write before you do anything else in your day."
And then there's this bit of advice from my hero Brenda Ueland, who says it best of all:
We have come to think that duty should come first. Duty should be a byproduct. WRITING, the creative effort, should come first -- at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, light-hearted and generous to everybody else. Even your health will improve.