“I don’t have time to write.” That’s what we all say when it comes to keeping up with regularly publishing our blog, features, case studies and profiles.
I’m no different. I struggle to give myself time to write about what I love. The two things I love most are writing stories and exploring urban life (in all its complexity and possibility).
So why do I struggle to create the time to write about my twin passions, and how can I rediscover the creative moment?
The secret, I am discovering, is in nurture. For me, it comes back to giving myself time to actually do the things I love first, and then writing about them is easy – or, at least, easier.
For me to truly love writing a story, I need time to think of lots of ideas, pick a good one and research it, find experts or ‘passionionados’ to talk with me about it, find the heart of the story – the drama or controversy – and then sit down and pull it all together into a pithy, punchy piece. Then I want to have time to send it to a subeditor for a fact and grammar check before it’s published.
But if I work too hard, even writing stories that I love, I miss out on revelling in life in the city – my other passion.
I’m working on a project to restore a common garden area in my block of flats, and create a communal vegie garden. To write about urban life, I need to be deeply experiencing, from digging my communal garden to talking to the great thinkers in the field of urban design, to going to festivals and galleries, and walking in parks with friends.
I’ve spent my life writing other people’s stories. I still love to do that, but it’s safer ground than writing about what I love. To really bear my heart on the subjects of writing and urban life demands a vulnerability that my life as a journalist did not really prepare or train me for.
Content marketing is different from journalism in that way. As a journalist I was paid to write about anything. As a content marketing practitioner, I put more of myself into what I write.
Why do I love city life, for example? Because I have lived without it, on the seaside of South Coast New South Wales, and in the deserts of Central Australia. For all their beauty, they didn’t offer the connections that I find in the city, with like minds, like souls and with the creative expression that is really my lifeblood.
I don’t know about you, but I whip myself along, working at a blistering pace. I never seem to get enough done. My to-do list rules my world. From the moment I open my eyes, it’s hovering there, like a spectre that will not be vanquished.
To write about what I love means I have to be a little kinder to myself, take my foot off the pedal and slow my trajectory to cruise mode. Brainstorming, researching, interviewing and writing take me into a zone of absorption, and I cannot get there without treating myself to a bit of kindness, permission to indulge my creative imperatives, and to protect myself from the busy work of everyday life.
It’s not as easy as one might think to be comfortable with the sense of power that I derive from writing about what I love. When I bring together all the elements – nurture, vulnerability and kindness – I experience a kind of holistic satisfaction that becomes a surge of energy and power. This is a wonderful feeling, but it can quickly runs off the rails if my ego gets hold of it. Instead, when life allows me the time to bring together everything I need to truly write about what I love, I have learned to foster a sense of gratitude rather than self-satisfaction. Even with my best efforts, it is not always possible to find the time I need, so when it happens and I experience that burst of energy, I have come to realise that this is a blessing. This keeps my ego in check.
Nurture, vulnerability, kindness and power seem like a strange recipe for writing a regular blog. And yet I have found this to be very effective. In my journalism days, I was protected from many distractions to focus on my writing. As a content marketer, I need to afford myself that protective space to keep my love of writing flourishing.