In many writing manuals or blogs, you hear about writers who begin their days with silent meditation in their quiet study and then write all morning. You hear about the writers who have set aside evenings for their studious and solitary creation because they work best at night. Ah, the peaceful bliss of a writing life. Except, for a lot of us, these scenarios are just as unrealistic as the single young writer living in their own Manhattan studio apartment in every romantic comedy ever.
Most writers I know work at least two jobs, sunup to sundown, and many are full-time students as well. Most writers I know don’t have studies, or even a quiet desk or armchair, or live with so many people that it’s never quiet or meditative. Most writers I know can’t devote the time they work best to writing, because they need to cook their dinner or do research for a paper or commute for an hour on a crowded bus or take care of their children or maybe just sleep because they’re just too damn tired.
I’m not making excuses for us normal, everyday writers. I’m not saying we have the right to not create or to be less industrious. Quite the opposite, I’m saying we need to be more industrious, more creative, and not get discouraged when it isn’t glamorous or convenient or even very fun. We aren’t very romantic or very spiritual or very quiet. But as long as we remember to keep writing, we’ll be okay.
Apologies for a few quiet days: I have been busy meeting a deadline. Ever stare so long at a computer screen your eyes dry out and you start crying because of the pain and everyone in the room looks at you with the sidelong concern of hesitant strangers not sure they want to get involved? Anyway, how was your weekend?
This week will be spent doing layout design for an internationally esteemed literary journal’s 60th anniversary issue. No pressure at all.
Sometimes you have to do something other than write. Bake cookies, go for a walk, scrub the bathroom, play an instrument, sew up a hole in an old pair of jeans. Clear your head and don’t think about words. Play hard to get. It’ll get the Muse’s attention…
The problem with living an interesting life surrounded by interesting people is that you’re constantly inspired but can never write anything for fear of insulting someone…
A Writer’s Benediction
May this year be full of beautiful, colorful, rich, compelling characters: brand new imaginary people who will save the hearts of children and bolster the dreams of adults. They’re waiting in the wings, ready for their moment. Maybe they’ve been waiting for centuries. Maybe they were waiting for you.
Art is not about being right. It’s about being you.
I laugh at the people who don’t know I’m scribbling their quirks and eccentricities down on my napkin. They have become but fodder for my insatiable imagination. This is the price people pay for being interesting in my general vicinity.
Excerpt from daily scribbling:
It’s winter break and all the students slouch back to their separate rainy rooms. Damn exhausting, keeping all this energy restrained, meted out in studious amounts, spent on projects we are told are important. Our world of black ink and white paper is suddenly free to explode into any color we fucking choose.
We hibernate, curled in blankets, dreaming art, consuming art through open mouths like suckling infants or iPhones recharging, recuperating, finding our muses again. Parents shake their heads: “Why don’t you do something?” they ask, and we can’t explain it, but we know we are. We need this.
And then, when we are ready, smoggy-eyed and bad-breathed from coffee and alcohol–our medicine and chlorophyll–we burst upright in our beds. Oh, we are so swollen and pregnant with possible art. It swells up, coiling and uncoiling like alien DNA, and we give birth to new things, real things, important things that no one else understands.
Yesterday I went to a nearby coffee shop to write. About an hour in, a young man came and sat at the same table with his own laptop. I could see the beginnings of a script or screenplay on his screen. We didn’t talk much at all, didn’t ask what the other was writing–we just sat in literary camaraderie for hours, pecking away at our keyboards, drinking coffee. 10/10 would recommend.