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.
Until writing becomes your escape, your obsession, your preferred reality, you will only ever be a guest of literary greatness.
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…
Art is not about being right. It’s about being you.
Today I was tabling for a writers conference I am helping to organize. A young man came up and asked about it. He seemed enthusiastic, declaring himself an avid writer interested in publication.
“We are featuring a workshop where you pitch your manuscript idea to real life editors and agents,” I said. “It’s a great way to get feedback.”
His face went blank. “No,” he said flatly. “My book is a book. I know it’s a book and no one can tell me it isn’t.” With that, he walked away.
As he left, I couldn’t help but think: There is someone who will never actually publish.
I always like my first pages best. There is something compelling and intricate about them, the words all fit together like snug, colorful puzzle pieces. Then I hit chapter two and everything crumbles into disjointed, stagnant sentences.
The imagination is highly underrated in the Real World. It’s all fun and dandy when you’re a kid – every cartoon you’d sit down to watch sings at you to explore your imagination. But once you grow up, imagination is checked at the door in favor of cold, hard reality. It is reduced to a “just“. It was just your imagination. You were just imagining. Except if someone is trying to get you to do something you don’t want to do. Then you get an annoyed, fervent: “Use your imagin-ation!”
This concept of being able to turn on, turn off, or regulate the imagination is wrong. The imagination is there, whether you like it or not. Stifled, gagged, but not dead. You can’t get rid of it – and why would you want to? Adults with bold, untamed imaginations shaped this precious thing you call your reality.
Artists are people who repeatedly run full-tilt into a blank white wall, hoping the smears of blood will say something profound.
With our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative springs than to fill them. With our pitchers, we attempt sometimes to water a field, not a garden. We throw ourselves indiscriminately into committees and causes. Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands with distractions. Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives – which tend to throw us off balance. – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
This is just one quote from a beautiful little book on simplicity and creativity called Gift from the Sea. I picked it up in a bookshop in Denver, and have been feeding off it ever since.
This is something I cannot stress enough:
Difficulty does not equal quality.
Just because something is difficult to write (or read) does not automatically make it of better quality. Likewise, if something came easily, that does not mean you have settled. While intricacy generally takes more time and energy, remember to make allowance for the possibility that you’re a genius.