Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Giving yourself permission to live your life, revisited

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I have to admit that I had a lot anxiety about being a Writer in Residence here. Not because I didn’t want to – I did, I did, I did – but because I wasn’t sure I had enough to say. I was also worried about managing my time, and wondering if blogging here would take away from other writing.

But after I got my first post up, my anxiety lessened, and continued to do so with every new post. I also found that, while I still had moments where I wasn’t sure what I would write about next, they didn’t last very long because I went with how I was feeling, or with questions that had come up organically in conversation or online.

So this experience ended up being a lot different than what I’d expected: in all of my worrying about time and commitment and balancing responsibilities, I’d forgotten to feel excited about it when I first got started.

And if I’d known what would have happened here, for me, then I probably would have worried about it less and looked forward to it more.

I really want to thank Open Book Toronto and everyone who took time to read my posts here. This blog not only brought me to a lot of important realizations, but it also helped me connect with a lot of new people. Even though this is my last post, I hope we’re all able to continue to stay connected.

When I started this process, I didn’t have a plan – like I said off the top, I wasn’t even sure I had enough to say. So I wrote about what I’ve been feeling, and about the things I think about on an ongoing basis: my points of inspiration, my favourite fictional characters, my wants, my fears, my frustrations, my questions.

A month ago, I wasn’t expecting to explore a lot of the topics and wonderings that ended up here, but it didn’t surprise me when it did. Many of my story ideas have come from my own questions or conundrums.

What surprised me was that my time blogging here helped me work out some of the things I was struggling with, particularly the pressure I put on myself. As noted here:

The more I opened up here, the more clarity I had.

Throughout this whole month, every entry in my journal included something along the lines of, “I have no clarity today,” or, “I can’t focus my thoughts anymore.”

But when I blogged, I really had to think hard about what I was saying, because I wanted it to be relatable for anyone who might read it. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’m not lacking focus after all.

What’s really happened is I have run empty.

I am, temporarily, out of words for my novel. I will not write a poem anytime soon. I will probably not write much of anything outside of this blog post or a journal entry or a Twitter update.

If you were in my place, would you be scared right now? I know that I would have been at any other time this year, but I’m actually okay with admitting this, and accepting it.

Because what I’ve realized this summer is that I have to live more life if I want to write another poetry book. I have to be away from my laptop, outside of my apartment, if I want to finish my novel.

I did not get to this point by staying in all the time, trying to write.

I have gotten everything out of me that I had to, and now it’s time to fill up again. It doesn’t mean I am turning myself off, or ignoring any creative rumblings that bubble up. It just means I am going to focus on living as much as I’ve been focused on writing.

I am going to make sure that I don’t forget to keep trying to be the person I always wanted to be, which is someone with experiences and stories and perspectives. I never envisioned myself as someone who stayed in all the time, who passed on travel opportunities or skipped out on Saturday night adventures or shied away from learning or doing something I always wanted to know better.

I have come to realize that writing is a huge part of my identity, and always will be, but it is not my entire identity, and I don’t want it to be.

The writers I admire most are always the ones who reflect real life in their work. Kathy Acker drew heavily from her experience working as a dancer. Chandra Mayor’s time in Winnipeg’s punk rock scene factors in beautifully throughout her poetry and fiction. Blogger Kelly Diehls keeps me coming back because she writes about her life with a style that reads like a voice in your head.

With my own writing so often drawing from my own experiences, I realized I need to make living part of my creative process. Writing and being are not exclusive: I’d been trying to keep them on separate schedules, deciding when one would stop and the other start. And while I do believe that having a process is important – especially when it comes to setting time aside to write – I also believe that it’s important to be flexible, to find a flow between the two so that writing and living don’t both feel forced.

And if the writing is keeping you from living, or vice versa, that’s when it’s time to start to question whether there’s a better way, because the two should feed each other, not off each other.

Have you given yourself permission to live your life? If not, when do you plan to start? I want to hear all about it.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

Liz Worth 2011

Liz Worth is the Toronto-based author of Amphetamine Heart (Guernica Editions, 2011), Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond 1977-1981 (Bongo Beat/ECW, 2011) and Eleven: Eleven (Trainwreck Press, 2008), a shot of surreal punk fiction.

Go to Liz Worth 2011’s Author Page