Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place

Warrior-writer

7 Comments

Last night I came across a video interview of writer Elizabeth Gilbert where she made this comment about her writing discipline: “It doesn’t have to be good; it just has to be done.” This reminded me of something Anne Lamott states in her book about writing, Bird-by-Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”

I get it. I need to make writing a daily, sustained practice and not concern myself with the quality. I need to make writing a discipline. I need to be this warrior-writer who gets up every morning and does a martial arts warm-up routine comprised of applying verbs and nouns to a page. Then I need to move on to the battlefield and actually finish something I start even if it is just plain terrible writing.

My life is complicated right now and this has taken its toll on a daily discipline. I tell myself that I am just too tired, or too distracted, or too unfocused. I say to myself that I have had no time for my “artist’s date”, or no time to read others’ writings for inspiration.  I make one excuse after another.

I have come to a point where I have to be honest with myself: I could make the time and be more focused if I really wanted. I don’t need outside stimulation to inspire me. The simple fact is that I don’t write because I am afraid. I am a not a warrior-writer, I am a writing-wimp.

In my opinion, to be a productive writer one needs to dig deep and reveal oneself. My writing stays on the superficial level in my fear of revealing too much about my horribly flawed self. I resonate to the works of writers like Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and Lamott (Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith) because these works are so courageously intimate. They share their lives in a way that I cannot imagine myself ever doing. I even go as far as to tell myself that I have never done anything worth-while in my whole life ever so there really is not anything that I can share even if I wanted.

Every short story I might write is fraught with the potential of showing any readers I might attract how utterly trivial and superficial I really am as a human being. And with that fear in front of me, I turn tail and run.

Furthermore, anything I reveal about myself in my writing would make me vulnerable to those hateful elements in this world who derive psychic sustenance from preying on the vulnerabilities of others. Being a writer is putting oneself into the position of being wounded and perhaps even dying a little bit with each word struck by a pen or a keyboard. I have read that Norman Mailer once said “Every one of my books has killed me a little more.” A person who wants to be a writer needs to show the courage of warrior and accept the possibility of even becoming a martyr for her craft.

It’s time for me to reconcile myself to this fact.

lgloyd (c) 2013

The interview I reference in the first line:

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7 thoughts on “Warrior-writer

  1. Wow, Lori! This is some heavy – and insightful – stuff. I have to agree with everything you’ve said here, in application to myself. And it seems like the only thing I have become creatively good at lately is creating excuses. Kudos to you for a well-done piece here.

  2. Really good stuff, here, Lori. Other options might be writing with a cause in mind, say like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird type genre to deliver a societal shift/moral tale, or even curiosity about another persona as in Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, who revealed nothing of self, but lots about the world through Holly Golightly??? I imagine some of us are trapped in reality world which is very hip at the moment, where everything has to be from core, but there are many other reasons to write other than expose core self. Some writers never reveal self, others do. There is merit in both. The lady who wrote Mary Poppins (P.L. Travers) kept her life fiercely private and secret until she passed away, and her works were highly successful. Maybe it’s all about the motive behind the writing? I know this inner conflict, because it’s a curly topic and all of us have experienced this reticence, some of us for too long! Joan Lindsay who wrote Picnic at Hanging Rock even still has people guessing what this slim novel really was about, and never gave anything away! This or may not be of help to you, but we mostly read as well as write. Maybe we should just enjoy both sides, read one thing and write the other? Thanks for this post, as it has made me take the issue apart, as being ridiculed by the inner critic isn’t the purpose of writing, and if we can avoid it, we ought take a different approach! And still get the bonus to admire the daring ones who do what we can’t and they might admire in return! Hope this makes sense as I have hammered it out!

  3. Thank you, Monica, for reminding me of these other approaches to writing. As I said to Jane above, I might have been having a bad day and need to step back and reassess the whole writing thing before I throw in the towel. I need to re-read to Kill a Mockingbird and remind myself that there ARE other reasons to write.

    • I am so glad you did share as it made me think too. Have been blocked as well. Core self writing has become so hip it’s huge, and if we all only wrote that way, it would be too much of the same thing. Write you own path, incognito if necessary, so you and light up the world or wise it up or whatever! To Kill a Mockingbird is absolutely huge and changed my perspective as a young girl and you know I never forgot it!! I think they say Atticus Finch is the most admired character ever created in literature, if I remember correctly!! Loved Gregory Peck in this role and still have the VHS in Black and White, awesome, if you want to watch it instead, time wise!

  4. This is an insightful post that resonates on so many levels. I will share it with my Travels With A Donkey group on Thursday. And the comments that have emerged are inspiring as well. So good to see serious discussion in the comment section. It reminds me of the power of this medium.

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