If You Want to be a Writer: Action Expresses Priorities
A few months ago a greetings card in a store caught my attention: An Asian statue of a dancer in a wheel against a sunset sky. Then I read the quote beneath the photo, “Action Expresses Priorities.” The quote rang home even more loudly than the image – bright and clear like a wake-up bell.
I bought the card to send to my friend Fiona in London. But that bell kept ringing in my head until I realized that, I’m sorry, I didn’t want to send Fiona the card. It called to me so loudly I needed to keep it for myself. The quote has become my mantra for this year.
Every year I take a quote or saying as a guiding mantra. Sometimes I keep it close to my chest, even my husband doesn’t know what it is. But I’ve been sharing “Action expresses priorities” left and right.
I started mentioning it in my coaching calls and online seminars with writers because so often the message spoke to the issues the writers brought to me. Every time I shared it there was an intake of breath, an “Mmm” of recognition, the same recognition that I felt when I read it. Hey, the saying is attributed to Gandhi, so perhaps it’s no surprise.
What does “action expresses priorities” mean to a writer?
For me, it reminds me that if I am not actively doing my creative work, taking action towards my dreams, my ambitions, my most cherished projects, then they cannot be much of a priority for me. This leaves me with a bit of an ‘ouch’ feeling because of course they are a priority in my heart. They are just not getting prioritized in my day.
Also, when I’m dollying around wasting time on some ridiculous task I’ve set myself (spending an hour online to save $20 on a flight) or disappearing down the rabbit hole of Facebook, what does this say about my priorities? Usually, it means that I have (literally) lost the plot, because there is no way I’m writing a short story while I’m watching videos of dancing ferrets.
If you want to prioritize your writing this year, this saying is one to take to heart. Use it as a tool, as a benchmark to choose what you will or will not do, as a sweet prayer of encouragement.
5 Ways to Take Action and Prioritize Writing
1) Make time to write. It’s very simple. If you don’t make time in your life to write then your brilliant novel is not going to write itself while you are watching TV / researching Twitter hashtags / partying with the dancing ferrets. Even 10 minutes of writing a day makes a difference – it shows that even in your busiest days, you are showing up for yourself, for your priority of being a writer.
2) Find a community of writers. Writers in our online Write to the Finish course always say that the sense of community is a vital part of the course for them. For 9 months they have the support of other writers on the same path, all striving to write a book. (Often writers stay in touch for years after their Write to the Finish course ended, even traveling across continents to meet and write together. When writers bond, they bond hard!) I have my own writing communities – almost all consistent/successful writers do. Whether online or in the real world, it’s important to spend time with other writers who understand you and who will have your back when the going get tough.
3) Speaking of which, don’t give up when the going gets tough. Express your priority to keep writing by just doing it: hang on in there, stay committed. I promise you that the tough time will pass.
4) Create a scaffolding. Study books in your genre, take writing courses, read books on how to write, attend workshops and conferences, do things to support your priority of being a writer. (But watch out! If you only read books about how to write and don’t actually write, your action simply says that your priority is to read writing books!)
5) Learn to say No. Don’t spend time doing things that don’t express your priority of writing. Sometimes that will mean saying a kind “no” more often – to others or to yourself. Start practicing.
By the way, even though I kept the inspiring card for myself I didn’t deprive my friend Fiona of the “action expresses priorities” quote. I ‘fessed up and told her on a Skype call and showed her the card — the gorgeous statue of Shiva danced its way across the Atlantic ocean via my Skype camera. (Because another of my priorities is to share truth and beauty where I find it, even if I am too clingy to send the actual card!) Then Fiona and I had a vigorous conversation about what “action expresses priorities” means for each of us.
The message feels huge both for my personal life and for my writing life. What does it mean to you?
If you want to tell us, I’d love to hear in the comments box below. If not, then just breathe it in for yourself, keep it warm against your heart.
Tania Casselle is a writer for magazines, book publishers, and online media. She also coaches writers and leads online writing seminars including the successful Write to the Finish online course by phone and email for writers working on a book. She leads in-person writing workshops and retreats in beautiful places, usually teaching with her husband, the Hemingway award-winning author Sean Murphy. See more WriterMuscle posts or sign up to receive future Writer Muscle updates – down-to-earth advice from a seasoned writer.