I sit at my desk, typing then backspacing, typing then backspacing. Highlighting paragraphs. Deleting, undoing, rewriting. What’s wrong with me? I look at my dog who looks up at me helplessly. What? You want to go for a walk? I’m busy writing, okay?
Well, not really…
I get up to make coffee.
I think of Hemingway’s words: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
And of John Gardner’s words: “The dream must be vivid and continuous…”
And of Anne Lamott’s words: “Perfection is the voice of the oppressor…”
Why would anyone want to be a writer?
I’m hard on myself when it comes to my writing (in case you couldn’t tell). It’s healthy to be self-critical of your work, necessary to hone an objective eye, but not to a degree that makes you lose confidence. I want my writing to be perfect. Perfect! But this yearning for perfection has only gotten in the way of my writing. The quest for perfection is nonsense. It’s distracting, and not the point of writing at all.
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say the most valuable of traits is persistence.” Octavia Butler
You know what else is distracting? Comparing yourself to other writers. They cannot write your stories just as you cannot write theirs. So focus on your own work.
I have my coffee now. I look down at my page and think of Hemingway’s words again, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Well that’s great. I suppose I should whip out the band aids. (Or does he mean internal bleeding? Probably both.)
But I love this quote so much because it gives me hope. It reaffirms that I’m not crazy. That the path to the most coveted words “The End” is supposed to be thorny, is supposed to draw blood. That I feel the way I do about my writing because I am a writer. All writers have their insecurities, moments of self-doubt and agony. But real writers write their way out of these emotional trenches. Real writers don’t stop writing.
Because writing is a passion. We don’t write for money or recognition (and certainly not for physical well-being). We write because we have an aching in our hearts, a story to tell. A story that occupies our daydreams and keeps us awake at night. A story that we need to set free into the world so we can finally set ourselves free.
A story worth telling and a story only we can tell.
There is nothing to writing. So I sip my coffee, roll up my sleeves metaphorically, pet my dog because she calms my nerves, and get to writing.
I have this ache in my heart for a reason.