The writer writes.
As an on-and-off again fiction writer, that very obvious notion eluded me for years. I put writing aside, put it off, did something else, cleaned, cooked, watched television, worked out or just about any other activity that didn’t involve writing, all the while wondering why I couldn’t finish a story. Continue reading
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is DO A LOT OF WORK. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece. It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take a while. You just gotta fight your way through.” — Ira Glass
Credit: Steve Bowbrick
In the beginning, writing teachers tell you, “Write what you know.” But as far as I can tell, writing fiction is about writing to find out. You discover new people, places and things. You discover yourself. It’s particularly poignant in fiction because, on the one hand, you’re making it up as you go along. But at the same time you’re creating a fictional world, you’re also exploring it and uncovering things you didn’t know. That’s the joy and the pain of it. Mostly pain. It can be discouraging, because often you feel as though you’re on the right path, when suddenly you find that it’s not the way out and you have to back track, that is, revise. I offer this encouragement. Get lost in the woods and don’t be afraid. You’ll make a path and find your way out. Trust the process. Be brave.
From Donald Barthleme:
The writer is one who, embarking upon a task, does not know what to do … The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made. Without the scanning process engendered by not-knowing, without the possibility of having the mind move in unanticipated directions, there would be no invention … Writing is a process of dealing with not-knowing.
Photo: pat00139 / Flickr Creative Commons