“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler, American author and journalist.
The image is this: A scraggly haired, unshaven man is hunched over a desk. The pen in his hand dances wildly on the page in front of him. Possibly, there is a window overhead, with a majestic wilderness beyond or, perhaps, the lights of a city below. A grunt or two is heard, the pen stops, a sigh. The brilliant, magnificent manuscript is completed, ready for the publisher’s desk and the millions waiting to be enlightened.
Anybody who has written a complete poem or story or paper knows the reality of writing isn’t nearly as glamorous as that. The finished product is more an accumulation of a series of tests in perseverance than a glorious outpouring of genius. And what is at the centerpiece of this hard work? Lots of writing.
In an article in the magazine “Writer’s Digest” titled “Advice on Writing” Mary Kennedy states the importance of consistent writing:
“Writer’s block is an excuse. Neurosurgeons aren’t allowed to wake up in the morning and say, ‘I have surgeon’s block today, I think I’ll have to stay home and play Sudoku.’ If you want to be a professional, you do your job whether you feel like it or not.”
This professional mentality towards writing is aspiring. If writing is to be taken seriously, then it must be practiced like any other serious profession. There is, however, a debate with authors between the value of daily writing versus sporadic, unprovoked spurts of literary expungence.
Former New York state poet Jean Valentine is one who prefers the latter. She has been known to go months between periods of almost maniacal work and no writing at all. That method works for some, and the majesty of Valentine’s poetry proves that, but for the rest of us it is also a convenient excuse for not writing.
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath
What really stops the writer from writing is fear. It is the fear of failure – of not being able to say anything important or not being able to say it well, or, worse, discovering that there was nothing to say to begin with. This fear follows the writer from the thought to the page. At its best it keeps a writer grounded; at its worst it prevents writing all together.
One can’t worry about their writing being bad because at first, well, it will be. This is where editing fits in – but that is another article. The only way to hone the craft of writing is to do it. John Steinbeck, a renown proofreader, was known to take months and years rewriting portions of his books before submitting them for publication.
No matter what style of writing one’s interested in, any writing is helpful, even a daily journal. When writers don’t write, a mental plaque builds up until that writer is either forced to numb their mind with absurdities and TMZ or go insane.
The daily write is the writer’s version of the yogi’s meditation. It is an exercise towards literary nirvana, towards an unattainable perfection of thought and function. The goal of consistent writing is to find the rhythm.
All writers know what that means: an inexplicable twitch of the fingertips, the sudden purging of clear, beautiful wordage. That is the goal. Everything else is editing.
Ernest Hemingway wrote in his autobiographical memoir, A Moveable Feast, that he would start writing a story with the truest statement he could conceive. If good writing can be defined as a series of truths, then writing is the search for authenticity. And in this search, like swamp logging and mining, a lot of worthless muck has to sifted through and blown up before you get to the good stuff.