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: