I’ve been resisting writing about my writing day, probably since the moment rob so kindly suggested that I do. I didn’t really know why or better yet, the reason was still hidden, embodied and fused with fear. I have been unemployed since April of this year. I’ve had some contracts and I’ve been doing some paid writing which is wonderful, but mostly I have been living off of my savings. It’s been challenging, but when the prospect of being out of work first surfaced in early 2018, I have to admit that I was super excited about it. I fantasized that I would use my savings and would have so much time to dedicate to writing. Sadly, when unemployment arrived life got even busier. Suddenly, I had a health crisis and had appointments with specialists. My body was probed and examined, I heard my heart beating for the first time under an ultrasound machine, it sounded like an animal underwater. During this time, I got a baseline of the inner workings of my body at this age. Finally a few weeks ago, I received a diagnosis that made sense and that fit most of my symptoms, then came more appointments and then some strategies and new ways to cope. All this aside, I also spent a lot more time with family, nurturing relationships and conversations, a luxury for sure, but something that I didn’t really understand and value as part of my writing process, something, I didn’t even think to include in this piece until today.
During this time, I did most of my writing on the subway while traveling back and forth to appointments, in waiting rooms, and for a few weeks managed to take a fiction course that forced me to write a few hours the night before the assignments were due. I wrote a few hours in the afternoon before making dinner, but there was never any real formal schedule. And I realized this was what I was most ashamed of and why I kept putting off writing about my writing day. Here I was free to schedule and structure writing on my own terms, but I had not done it. I felt terrible when writer friends spoke about the ways they get up at 5 am to write before going off to full-time work and the ways they manage to squeeze writing into busy days.
I am now employed again and that fantasy of writing all day is gone. Talking to one of my friends this morning, I realize my writing day has never been structured. She tells me, “good, write about that, most of us don’t have the romanticized ideal of writing in a café for hours. Your way works. It’s not broken,” she insists.
So here it is, I don’t have a writing schedule. I resist having a schedule. I write notes on my phone as things come to me. I pull over on the side of the road, and write whenever it is safe. I spend time talking through my ideas with family and in community. I take courses that make me write even when I feel there’s nothing I want to say. I realized today that I was hoping that this time off would make me into a different type of writer. I realized that I didn’t really know or respect the value in my process. During this time, I had weeks where I struggled to write. I had days that felt like they could open up and be anything and yet, they turned into housework or doctor appointments, but also my time off was filled with family and friends and laughing and lots of joy. Also, what a shame on my part, to disregard the incredible impact of financial stress, illness and uncertainty on the artistic process, but also, to undervalue the incredible amount of time that I dedicated to nurturing the conversations and communal storytelling that feed my writing and allow me to find the strength and power to set things down into story.
Leonarda Carranza is a Central American born writer who now calls Brampton home. She holds a PhD in Social Justice Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Her writing has been published in Best Canadian Essays, Room, The New Quarterly, and Briarpatch magazine. Her essay “Tongues” is part of Room Magazine’s first women of colour edition. She is the winner of Briarpatch magazine's seventh annual Writing in the Margins contest for her piece "The McGill Experiments".