I stopped writing for a while, because I couldn’t put any of the stories that were stuck in my mind into words. I wasn’t able to give them the shapes I had imagined, so I threw them away.
Until I changed my mind and wrote a book.
When I realized that working on two novel translations would make it impossible to write 50,000 words in November, I put all my writing plans on hold. I had found a perfect excuse to give in to my fear.
Then I talked to my accountability partner Veronica. We talk on Skype once a week to keep each other on track with our work and dreams, and when I told her about my plans, she encouraged me to simplify the challenge. To let go of the idea that I had to write a certain number of words and make my project smaller instead of dropping it.
Eventually, I decided to write a small book of poetry before Christmas. I finally got back into my habit of waking up really early, and wrote at my candlelit desk for thirty minutes to an hour almost every morning. Before breakfast. Before diving into my translation work. Before the rest of the house woke up.
I expected it to be painful, but I loved these mornings. I loved the silence. I loved letting the characters take shape and come alive, a little more with every poem I wrote. I loved not having to care about whether or not I would be able to use the poems for anything.
A couple of weeks into December, I had finished a story told in thirty-one poems. I printed a few copies, tried a very simple Japanese bookbinding technique and gave them to my family for Christmas.
The book is far from perfect, but it is a book. I am one tiny step closer to the place where I will be able to give my stories the shapes I imagine. And I have proved to myself that I can finish a personal writing project, even when the timing is not right, even when the most logical choice would be to put it off and step back into the safety of not having enough time.
I will never have more time. But I can always choose what to make time for.