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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Is Writing Really Important or Merely Important?

Do you give equal weight to the Really Important and the merely important?

Last Friday, I wrestled with back cover copy for my book, struggling to balance my editor’s extensive experience writing this kind of copy with my impulse to include everything a potential reader needed to know to buy the book. (Since then, it’s occurred to me that I’ve already written that – it’s called “Chapter 1: Introduction”.)

After several email exchanges, I decided to give the back cover my best effort one more time and then set it aside until Monday. But I was still rewriting in my head after I went to bed.

On Saturday, I learned that my brother Russell had a massive heart attack early that morning. He was sedated, in ICU and his prognosis was uncertain. As you can imagine, the significance of the back cover copy and all my great rewriting ideas vanished.

Reordering Priorities

Because Westerners, Americans in particular, are so blessed that all the Really Important things are typically in a good place, we cruise through most of our days with a sense of security that actually decreases our awareness of the Really Important. We’re lulled into thinking that merely important things or even trivia is worthy of our attention and emotion.

But when someone you love is in danger, your priorities crystallize. You realize that the people you love and living your life well and fully are what’s Really Important. Your passion, vision and purpose are important, but merely important, with a lower case “i” not Really Important as you used to think. You see that everything else is trivial really.

Monday morning, we still didn’t know what would happen. Meditating for Russell and the rest of my family was and is Really Important. So meditating and phone calls get most and the best of my focus.

Coaching, teaching, my book and this blog are all reflections of my purpose and passion and therefore important. So when I need a distraction, these are the activities that get my attention and time. But my ability to concentrate is impaired (so please cut me some slack if this blog is not as good as usual). Trivia fills in the cracks when I am so emotionally or mentally exhausted I just want to “veg out.”

On the Upswing

Russell is improving. He’s still in ICU, still sedated with a breathing tube, but he responded to a request to squeeze his son’s hand, and other indicators are hopeful. My ability to concentrate on merely important tasks is also improving, but I need to be careful to make time for plenty of Self-care.

Most of the time, we can be grateful that we get to coast along with the Really Important in a good place. If we’re wise, we try to remember the crises in our lives because that clarifies what Really Important is and helps us avoid overwhelming ourselves with the merely important or even the trivial.

But we can’t live our lives as if we’re in perpetual crisis – that would interfere with our ability to take action on the merely important, and the merely important is important after all.

As writers, we use our memories and awareness of both the Really Important and the merely important to inform our writing and to keep the trivial from invading our writing. Remembering that writing is important, but only merely important, can free us from self-importance and taking ourselves so seriously that we end up getting in our own way and struggling with resistance caused by our expectations and demands.

What became clear to you the last time you were in crisis? Do you let that inform, but not overwhelm, your writing and the rest of your life?

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8 Comments on “Is Writing Really Important or Merely Important?”

  1. Sarah Irene Dye March 10, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    Hi Roseanne,

    I’m so sorry about your brother’s heart attack and I hope he recovers quickly and well.



    • rosannebane March 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

      Thank you Sarah! He’s improving and I know all the good wishes/prayers/meditation is helping him, the rest of my family and me.


  2. Terri Burnor March 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Rosanne, My thoughts are with you and your family. Wishing Russell a speedy recovery!


    • rosannebane March 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

      Thank you Terri! He’s improving and I know good thoughts from you and others are helping everyone in my family.


  3. Eileen Peterson March 7, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Prayers and thoughts for your brother, Rosanne. 🙂


    • rosannebane March 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

      Thanks Eileen! He’s improving, slower than we’d hope, but improving nonetheless.


  4. Eileen Peterson March 7, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    True. When my daughter became ill, the Really Important took over for awhile, but I didn’t stop writing. The writing became different, a lot of “Help me, God!” and “What the hell are we supposed to do now?” type stuff, but that is writing, too. I returned to the novel once my daughter was better and getting help, but it is still pretty slow going. But I would never give up, or say, “Well, I’m too busy, now” because this is what I do. I write through my life, that’s who I am, and that won’t change. Telling myself that I have to give up writing because I’m too busy is like telling a knitter or cyclist they have to give up knitting or cycling because they happen to have a busy life. Like Julia Cameron (The Right to Write) says, we make writing a special luxury reserved for people with tons of time or lots of money, when it is simply something you do because you are a human being and human beings can’t just work all the time, give all the time, and worry all the time. 🙂


    • rosannebane March 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

      So true and so wonderfully said! Can’t wait to read your novel Eileen! (No pressure, just eagerness.)


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