Okay, here’s a nice little bonus post for you. It’s not long, but boy is it EVER from the heart.
I’ve been paging through my Twitter feed, through my blogs and my writing pointers and my whole little virtual writing world. My fingers have been tappity-tapping, my brain running. Note the lack of adjective there; ‘running’ is about all I can say.
I see a lot about the writing ‘life’. Articles with grandiose titles such as ‘facing the blank page’, ‘obeying the muse’, ‘living in the world of your story’, etc. I even found tools–special plot-point dice, prompt books, so on–especially created for writers. And my question is–when in the HELL did writing become a lifestyle choice?
There is no ‘muse’. The blank page is just a piece of paper. While the world of your story should be concise and well-explored, and your characters close to you, you should, at no point, be ‘living’ in an imaginary place. (I think I’ve been guilty of this cliche too, I have to say. But still.)
Writing, like any arts-related activity, is a profession for some, a passion for others. I hope, for those lucky enough to make good money doing it, it’s both. But at the end of the day, it’s putting words on paper. It’s a mechanical process, and if it’s done well it’s a lot of sweat and labor and painstaking decision. Writing isn’t some vaunted mysterious art, there’s no burning incense or augury reading involved. Being sensitive, prone to exposition, and artsy doesn’t make you a writer.
What makes you a writer, in fact, is an assload of hard work. It’s seeing the word ‘agonized’ in a sentence and KNOWING, because you’ve studied what words sound like and their precise meanings, that really, you want ‘stressed’ there. It’s seeing a blank page and not giving a shit, because you’re over all that self-aggrandizing prove-yourself bullshit and you know, KNOW, that what you put down on it will either work or it won’t.
And it’s reading. Boy, is it ever a lot of reading. It’s reading in ‘your genre’ and outside of it. It’s recognizing good work when you see it. It’s reading SO MUCH that your grammar is awesome by reflex. After all, if you have a young dentist, wouldn’t you hope he’s learned something from other, older dentists, who might do things differently? You can learn, my dears, from the strangest places, in the strangest times. Whether or not you want to write LIKE Dostoyevsky, you should still read him. Because he did something good, and maybe he’s got some habits you’d like to steal.
So don’t piss your words away on things like ‘feeding the hungry Muse’ or ‘writing from your heart’. Inspiration will either strike or it won’t, and writing from your heart would be awfully messy.
Write with your two hands, as much or as little as you please. If you keep doing it, you’ll get better. If you don’t–I hear there are some marvelous opportunities in telemarketing.