For the longest time, I’ve been hesitant to talk about writing. I think a part of me wants to keep quiet, afraid that if I talk about it, like a dream, it will stop working. Another part of me thinks who am I to talk? Most of the time it feels like I’m flailing about with words, and the times I get published are simply me blundering into the right room at the right time.
I know there are people out there with better insight – they keep blogs where that’s what they do – they talk about the craft. They’re constantly creating content – about how to build a character or how to find a theme or how your writing space has to be the right color of mauve. They’re attending conferences and helping other writers polish their work. But here’s a secret thought I hold close most of the time: I don’t actually see them writing.
Don’t get me wrong – I think part of what they’re doing is somewhat useful. They help aspiring or unsure writers with their confidence, they show them in articles what they might be doing wrong, or they help organize meet and greets where people get to sit and talk about the work. But that seems to be the line. It’s a cottage industry, writing about writing or talking about writing. It’s another for-profit endeavor, and the more I think about it, the more it annoys me, because what’s actually happening is that all of this time spent making charts and outlines and chatting and pontificating is time spent not actually writing. Here’s another secret I’ve learned over a long career: If you want to get better, sit down and write.
Stop talking about it endlessly, stop thinking it to death, and stop procrastinating because you got the No. 3 pencils and they’re Farber, and you really wanted some Pentel mechanicals. Write, then show it to people, then write some more. Write until you hate it, write until you love it, and write until you hate it again, yourself, and the world. Get the idea down, then go back and edit. Read an article about how to bring theme out, or metaphor. But first and foremost, WRITE. That’s secret number three. You can’t get better at something without starting to do it.
That said, I’m going to do what working writers rarely do, and open up a bit of my brain over a couple of posts. I’m going to share what it’s like for me to create, and hopefully, you find it interesting. But don’t take it necessarily as advice. What works for me maybe doesn’t work for you. That’s the nature of creativity. Some people get inspired by a song on the radio. Others have to smear themselves with peanut butter and take the A-Train to Boston. Whatever works. Instead, think of it as me opening my skull up, and for a minute, you can see the gears inside. In the meantime, go make something.
Sure. That, uh, works.