I had to train myself to go when I had to go
I’m guessing I’m not the only woman who once upon a time had to train herself to take time to pee. I was always on the go. I thought I had more important things to do first. I also tended to put off eating and resting and avoided letting anyone know I was less-than-capable at all times. I slept in my cape.
But eventually, I realized I had to take better care of myself. I had to set some boundaries or I would burn out. And that’s when I noticed that I was lousy at listening to my body. So I decided to make it a practice to prioritize that one, simple thing that only I could change.
I would stop, check in with the bladder and if there was that easy-to-ignore pressure, I’d put down whatever I was working on and head for the bathroom. During my moment of obligation to my body, I would notice other things: I was hungry, I was thirsty, my neck ached, I was cold. Or I would listen. Or I would just let out a big sigh and let my belly relax, happy to also let my mind relax.
Sometimes, of course, I would try to ignore it so I could do one more thing. One more thing would turn into ten more. Until the pressure became too uncomfortable, and I’d have to give up my agenda and go. to. the. bathroom.
You have to train yourself to write when you have to write
If you are currently in the ignore-it-until-it-comes-out-on-its-own phase of having a bladder and you want to write, I have news for you: Without the skill of taking time to pee, you are not going to be able to take time to write. Not because they are of equal necessity or because it’s really convenient to write in the bathroom.
No, it’s because you’re not yet in the habit of prioritizing something that should matter to you. You still believe in someday, the writing equivalent of the bladder ignorer’s “later.” And it’s worse than that because peeing when your bladder is full will eventually become a physical necessity. Dedicating a portion of your life to becoming a writer is only a necessity for your nonphysical being.
They both require the same willingness to listen for the subtle, the same dedication to turning a mundane activity into a mindfulness practice, the same blind trust that gives rein to a quiet impulse and accepts the result regardless of merit. Finding the time to write is, in the end, making time to write.
Making time to write
Making time to write creates a LOT more upheaval in your life than taking yourself to the bathroom when your bladder’s full. It requires looking seriously, soberly (and benevolently) at your calendar and circling a 15-30-minute time in the next few days where you will do the writerly equivalent of eating your lunch in the bathroom when someone is waiting to get in.
Be selfish, alone and afraid
But despite their clamoring, you will go in, shut the door, and write. You will be aware that every single thing in your life is on the other side of the door. You will feel like a thief, like a runaway mother. You will be afraid of the silence. You will think about fleeing. This is the most crucial time, just before you start writing, when it’s best to pay no attention to the riot in your head, to the excitement in your heart, to the almost sexual pull to the paper, and just pick up the pen and write.
As soon as you start writing, all the fear will dissolve. Everything on the other side of the door will be right there with you. Your breathing will become regular. You will feel as you did the first time you had world-changing sex: This is where I’m supposed to be. This is who I am. I was made for this.
You will also have similar thoughts to the ones you have when you finally go to the bathroom: Why did I wait so long?
The urge to write, like the urge to pee, will be one you recognize as necessary to respond to, a call from a part of yourself that is the very basis of what it means to be human. Eventually, you won’t believe that you ever questioned, postponed or avoided the drive to express, record and create in print.
Welcome home to yourself
While the act of writing is personal and quirky, as individual as eyelids, as sacred as breathing, there are some guidelines that will help you get over the hurdle of beginning.
- Prepare ye a space. Figure out in advance where you’re going to write. Preferably this place will have a door. This is crucial. A private space.
- In that space, make sure there is something to write on, something to write with, a timekeeping device, and a comfy chair. A nice window helps but isn’t essential. Hydration is good, too. In other words, provide for yourself.
- Empty your bladder. Then, set a time limit, set your timer, and forget about time until the timer goes off.
- Allow yourself to write anything, and refuse to critique it. Allow yourself to be incoherent and free. Anything goes. Be a safe space for yourself. Be hungry. Be sloppy. Be genuine. When you’re done, close the book and keep a space within that just receives this act, these words, their meanings.
- Do it regularly. Just be true to what’s inside and don’t try to make anything in particular. Be pleased with honesty, vulnerability, and fidelity to a mysterious process. Don’t even try to understand it until you’ve been doing this for a while. Until it’s no longer a question whether you’ll write. Until you can relax and spread out a little on the page.
- Before you leave your writing space, mark your next writing date on your calendar.
Some props help
The best way to write about “anything” is to use writing prompts. These can be physical objects you collect, words on slips of paper, a glance at a dictionary, something you’ve been thinking about your whole life, or anything else.
Action step: Download my list of writing prompts
Until next time, make time to pee and write. It could change your life.