Monday, December 14, 2009

Writing - It Shouldn't be that Hard

I was sitting at my desk in my Advanced Creative Writing class in high school, about twelve years ago. I was working on a poem at the time, my brow was furrowed in concentration, and I was near oblivious to the rest of the world around me as I labored away at my art. I suppose that's about as accurately as I can say it, the words weren't coming easily but the culmination of my efforts was about to pay off when he leaned over and said it.

"It shouldn't be that hard."

Those words, so simple yet so cutting, were an incredible blow to my self esteem at the time. Was I having difficulty finding the right words because I was a bad writer? Was my logical brain standing in the way of a creative flow of energy that only real artists could harness?

After all these years I can't remember his name, but the words have stayed with me as a ghost that just can't let go. The truth of the matter is that no one has a right to interject themselves between you and the things you choose to create - or in some cases, the things that choose you to create them. Sometimes it is that hard, it's a labor of love and hate, and you might even ask yourself why you bother - but that's okay. It's part of the process.

On the flip side of the equation, of course, is that art doesn't always have to be hard. Sometimes the muse strikes and it's everything you can do to keep up with the speeding flow of thoughts and ideas that threaten to vanish into oblivion with one slip of your fingers on the keyboard, or one pause of the graphite over the page.

All of this is completely normal. Art is a lot like growing plants, I've noticed. If you water your garden lightly every day, your plants will thrive in the early spring months. Once summer rolls around, however, the weak root systems that have grown near the surface of the soil will dry out in the stifling heat. Instead, it is best to water your garden deep every few days, forcing the roots to grow downward so the plant will thrive during the hotter months.

Art that comes easy will stop as soon as the muse does. Continuing to write when the muse has seeped underground will strengthen your ability to tap into the creativity you need during the times of famine. Everyone needs a little feast sometimes, but you should never allow yourself to become a fair-weather artist. The first step is accepting that sometimes it is hard, and you are no less of a writer for feeling that way. What makes you a writer is the determination to push forward even when it's hard.

Even as I write this post, I am struggling with my own writing. Chapter 5 of Ethereal Wings opened up a world of doubt. There was nothing in particular with the story that caused it, more just my own demons of self doubt. But here I sit in the library, surrounded by books and the hidden stories of the authors who wrote them. How many of these people encountered no doubts while writing? How many had it easy? Did they ever wonder if it was worth it? Did they look into the mirror and accuse themselves of being a pretender or a fraud? Did the people in their lives fully support them or did they sit in the wings, waiting to cackle over failure or swoop down to share in any potential success like hungry vultures? Did any of them write their novels in secret out of fear of embarrassment?

Further yet, how many times did these books land on the desks of agents or publishers before they were accepted? How many query letters were rejected? How many times were they never even responded to?

Friends, writing is hard. It takes so much of you without the promise of success. It requires dedication and faith, a belief that what you've written is truly worth reading and the conviction to see it through. The process can seem daunting, for sure, but if you feel as I do, there is only so far you can run before you end up right back where you started. Writing, creating, it's in our blood. It's who we are and the sooner we face that fact the sooner we can push down our roots and create as we were always meant to.
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