It’s becoming increasingly easy — and common — to stay connected to work from wherever you are. As we tip the scales in favor of our jobs, it’s no surprise that work-life balance can start to feel like a thing of the past.
Scott Driscoll, who has been an instructor in our writing programs for 20 years, has found that while many people build their careers and families, they sometimes miss being creative. “The career,” he said, “is not giving them the sort of creative satisfaction that they crave.”
But there’s a movement toward finding that satisfaction and adding more life back into the work-life mix.
Prioritizing Your Passion
Like many of us, Lisa Wessling, a project manager, puts a lot of hours into her career. But she’s careful not to let work fill up all her time. “It’s really important to me that I have this piece of my life that is separate from work,” she said. For her, that piece of her life is writing fiction.
Wessling began really prioritizing her passion 10 years ago, when she enrolled in what is now the Certificate in Literary Fiction. She and her classmates came to the program from different day jobs, but they all shared a passion for writing and the conviction to make it a priority. And the best part of this story? They still meet as a writing group to this day.
One of Wessling’s classmates and writing group peers, Rose Marcotte, reflected on prioritizing her creative side. “I always wanted to take fiction writing classes, in high school, in college, but I never did,” said Marcotte, a corporate and foundation relations manager at a nonprofit. “The UW class gave me a chance to do it.”
Bill Jones, who manages engineers for a living, dabbled in writing on his own before enrolling in the writing program. “At some point,” Jones said, “I had a conversation with my wife, and she said, ‘Well, why don’t you take it seriously and go learn how to do it right?’ And a light bulb went off.”
Structuring Your Time
Driscoll hears it all the time — “If someone says to their partner, ‘I’ve decided I’m going to put some time into writing,’ then that time is completely disregarded and impinged upon. But if they say, ‘I’m going to commit to this class for this amount of money, and for one night a week, I cannot be disturbed,’ they get that agreement, and they come to class and the rules are enforced.”
“I had aspirations for writing for many years,” said Gerard Ames, a physician. “When I gave up full-time practice, I had the time to actually take a course. The structure of the classes was tremendously important.”
Many students, Driscoll would say most, form writing groups as a way to maintain some structure after the program is over.
“The writing group is really important to keep me writing,” said Ames. “It keeps me on track, and it makes me write something every now and then. And it certainly provides feedback. You know when you’re really wrong on something. Or when you really get it right. That’s useful.”
Wessling agreed. “If I wasn’t in the writing group, I don’t think I’d be writing. I need the pressure. I need to hear people talk about writing. That is inspiring to me.” As Wessling and her writing group have found, the commitment of being part of something, especially something you choose, helps you carve out time to follow your passion.
Building a Community
Today, Wessling and her fellow group members continue to meet and enjoy the benefits of a writing community that is now a decade strong. Beyond the added motivation to write and the valuable feedback of peers, a group like this also provides a unique community — one filled with camaraderie, a common vision and a commitment to the craft.
Marcotte explained, “I don’t show my writing to other people. I only show it to my writing group. They have known me long enough now to know that the story might not be very good or finished, but it doesn’t matter. There’s a friendship there that goes beyond crappy writing or aspirations. They can relate to where I’m coming from.”
Jones appreciated the writing group most after he and his wife had a child. “Your whole life, after you have a kid, comes down to this little critter. Mine kind of collapsed into the four walls of my house,” he said. “And it was really good, after six or eight months, to get back to the writing group.”
The rewards of developing creative pursuits and sharing the journey with like-minded people cannot be measured in dollars or job promotions. But, as Wessling said, “It’s amazing how much something like this gives you.”