Coach Marla Beck

How to Write When There’s So Much Else You Could Be Doing

by Marla

in brilliant writing career

Over the winter holiday, I took my daughter to the DeYoung Museum in nearby San Francisco. We had the good fortune to snag a private tour, and together we weaved through the stately building, looking at women-made sculptures and learning much about art history and appreciation from our European-born docent.

Our guide wrapped up the tour by pausing near a piece I honestly didn’t like: a black glass sculpture of a table, topped by a host of odd and unexpected things. She asked my nine-year-old to walk around its clear glass case, and describe what she saw.

“Candle, messy bananas, tentacles…”

“Yes,” said the docent, an artist herself.

Then the woman said something so clear and true, her words knifed straight to my core: “What, then, is the purpose of this piece? What is the purpose of art?”

My daughter held her gaze, but offered no response.

“Art,” the painter continued, “has no true function. Art is valuable simply because it exists…like you and me and you,” she said, pointing at each of us.

Art is valuable simply because it exists.

The docent’s words made me think. In any given day, we encounter countless potential activities that compete for our gaze, attention and energy. Emails need answering. Facebook calls. And isn’t that a file, or a sink full of dishes that needs tidying?

We’re habituated to react to our world. In doing so, we accomplish tasks and sometimes feel satisfied and happy with ourselves. This kind of contentment pales, however, in relation to the deep sense of aliveness, pride and happiness that comes from simply writing. Why? Because directing our gaze, attention and energy to the act of writing – even if it seems like drivel some days, even if it might not earn us a penny –fills us up. The act of writing enlivens us, and ignites a fresh sense of what’s possible in our lives.

I challenge, at least a few times a week, to defy what comes easy.

Defy what comes easy.

Deliberately leave your work undone for awhile. Turn off the wifi connection. Gift yourself 7, 10, 20 minutes or more to limber your voice on the page.

Keep a tally of these brief writing moments, and check in with yourself in a week. Do you feel more creative? More nourished? More hopeful? My clients tell me writing nourishes their soul and fires up their optimism. This’ll happen for you, too.

The key to getting started is this: stop expecting that sitting down to write should always be easy. Sometimes you’ll have to be a bit defiant to make your writing matter — and believe that it’s absolutely okay and good to press pause on your life so you can get some meaningful, enjoyable writing done.

With love from your coach,


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