“You have to put in the time. If you are not there, the words will not appear. Simple as that.
A writer is not someone who thinks obsessively about writing, or talks about it, or plans it, or dissects it, or even reveres it: a writer is the one who puts his arse in the chair when the last thing he wants to do is have his arse in the chair.”Colm McCann, So You Want to be a Writer?
“Abandon the idea of predetermination, the shaping force of your intention, until you’ve given it up for good. Bring your intentions, by all means, but accept that the language we use is a language of accidentals, always skewing away from the course we set. This is not something to mourn but to revel in – not only for the friction and sideslip inherent in the language but for freeing us from the narrowness of our preconceptions.”Several Short Sentences About Writing (p.109), Verlyn Klinkenborg
“I’m repeatedly asked how I write, what my “process” is. My answer is simple: I think patiently, trying out sentences in my head. That is the root of it. What happens on paper or at the keyboard is only distantly connected. The virtue of working this way is that circumstances — time, place, tools — make no difference whatsoever. All I need is my head. All I need is the moments I have.
There’s no magic here. Practice these things, and you’ll stop fearing what happens when it’s time to make sentences worth inscribing. You’ll no longer feel as though a sentence is a glandular secretion from some cranial inkwell that’s always on the verge of drying up. You won’t be able to say precisely where sentences come from — there is no where there — but you’ll know how to wait patiently as they emerge and untangle themselves. You’ll discover the most important thing your education left out: how to trust and value your own thinking. And you’ll also discover one of things writing is for: pleasure.”Where Do Sentences Come From?, Verlyn Klinkenborg
“One day not too long ago I sat down at the desk, determined to sit there until at least one thought clarified itself sufficiently to serve the essay I was writing. I failed. Next day I sat down again. Again, I failed. Three days later, same thing. But the day after that the fog cleared out of my head. I solved a simple writing problem, one that had seemed intractable, and a stone rolled off my chest. Once again, and perhaps for the 4000th time since leaving analysis, I thanked the daily effort, my gratitude profuse. I saw what by now I’d seen many times before: It wasn’t the writing itself that was everything, it was sitting down to it every day that was everything. It’s the miserable daily effort that is everything. It is when I am honoring it that I become a woman still set on inhabiting a serious life.” (emphasis mine)Vivian Gornick, A Serious Woman (cited in Mason Currey’s Subtle Maneuvers newsletter)
“In my experience, inspiration is not something that finds you, or offers itself to you, nor for that matter is faith. Inspiration and faith are similar in so far as they both ask something of us. They each require real and constant practical application. For me, inspiration comes only when I practice certain things regularly and rigorously. I must commit fully to the task in hand, sit down each day, pick up my pencil (actually it is a medium black or blue Bic Biro) and get to work. It is not exactly toiling down the coal mines, but it is labour enough, and I undertake it through the good times and the bad, through the dry periods and the periods of abundance, and I keep on going regardless of my successes or failures. Inspiration comes because I put in the work.”Nick Cave, The Red Hand Files (06.10.22)
“Pleasure is the pleasure of the powers that create a truth that cannot be arrived at by reason alone, a truth that the poet recognizes by sensation. The morality of the poet’s radiant and productive atmosphere is the morality of the right sensation.”Wallace Stevens
“[…] in your life, if you’re a good artist, you have one good idea. But if you’re a genius, you maybe have two good ideas.”Marina Abramović (quoting her professor of art history), quoted in Mason Curry’s Subtle Manouvers newsletter (11.07.22)
“[…] part of the solution is not being so precious about ideas and accepting that they’re just a starting point. The other part—maybe the bigger part—is learning to tolerate discomfort. Is that, in fact, the most important skill for any writer? (Or visual artist or musician or fill-in-the-blank creative person?) It might be. Because so much of the process is just really, really uncomfortable. It requires butting up against your own shortcomings over and over and over.”Mason Curry, Subtle Manouvers newsletter (11.07.22)
When I think of writing for this blog I sense a hesitation to share, not out of fear, but stinginess. It’s disheartening to dedicate time and hope into a post about something that fascinates or concerns me only for the metrics to show that hardly anyone has read or responded to it. Is there anything worse to a writer? A proximate cause for those paltry view counts could be that I haven’t optimized my writing for search engines (SEO) so most people can’t find the post in the first place. But, what could be the root cause of my stinginess?
When questioned on his (ugh) ‘method’ David Sedaris advised fellow writers to keep a diary, carry a journal and, most importantly, abandon hope. Why abandon hope? I notice that when hope goes unfulfilled it can morph into its opposite (or one of its many opposites) and begin to thwart the very thing once hoped for. My hope for praise, for thousands of views and hundreds of comments, turned against me. Why bother making the effort only to get silence in return? What else should I write for? That’s for me, and us, to find out.
“One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer and which in a general way are naturally believed, surmised, and admitted by you, but which you’ll unconsciously deny when it comes to the point of gaining hope or peace from such an admission. In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance.”Franz Kafka
“You become a writer by writing. There is no other way. So do it. Do it more. Do it again. Do it better. Fail. Fail better. I think it’s a good idea, especially when you’re younger, you keep your hand in by writing something everyday. So I recommend it, but it’s another one of those recommendations that I myself have been unable to follow.”Margaret Atwood