The Obligation of Writing

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Lately, I’ve come to realize just how much of writing involves social obligations:

  • We join writer’s groups for support and are obligated to participate and help.
  • We pre-read for others, and in turn, they are obligated to pre-read for us.
  • We have to juggle obligations with our editors, artists, and so on.
  • We obligate ourselves to speak at conventions – then wonder how we signed up to do three panels (says the author who’s done that).

I’m sure you’ve had your own experiences of “writer’s obligations.” I’m also sure, like me, you may ask “why didn’t anyone tell us how much of writing is social obligations?” For too many writers, no one prepares us for the sheer social weight writing can carry.

For myself, I’m slowly learning to give myself space when it comes to the social demands of writing. I cannot participate in every writing group activity – or I won’t have time to write. I make time for when my fellow writers need help – while appreciating my own limits. It’s a work in progress.

I hope you can show yourself some compassion too.

But we also must remind our fellow writers that the social obligations of writing can overburden them. We can listen to them and gently remind them of their limits. We can carefully warn them when they are in danger of being overloaded. We can accept them as people who can’t do everything.

Maybe they’ll show themselves some compassion.

I’m still figuring where to go with this realization. I’d like to make it more than just a blog post. Perhaps there are discussions to be had in writer’s groups or a panel to do at a convention.

As long as I don’t get over-obligated . . .

Steven Savage