January 15, 2014
Are you one of the those writers who has to write, who would “just die” if they couldn’t get the words out each day?
Die? Really? And that would happen how? Would one’s hand, the one normally clutching the pen, instead go for the throat? Or would the words within slowly gurgle out of one’s brain and drown the would-be author?
WORDS (photo by BJN at sxc.hu)
Maybe it’s the green-eyed monster talking, but I can’t say that I’m that kind of writer. Sure, I might feel that way about reading, and, fortunately, I can pretty much ensure that I read something each day, if only a few pages of the Collected Stories of Lydia Davis that sits in one of my bathrooms. (In the case of Davis, that might even mean I get through a few whole stories, the ones that are a paragraph long, that is.) In fact, invariably, I’m reading all day long be it the Boston Globe during breakfast, a newsletter about writing, an art blog, a magazine (I am totally addicted to magazines), short stories submitted to Fifth Wednesday, or a good funny on Facebook.
So, if I had to choose, I’d always pick reading over writing. For one thing, writing demands that I work. I mean, does anyone think a blog post just appears – POOF! – out of thin air? A post into my journal? It’s easier than a blog post, sure, but so is doing the daily Sudoku or playing a game of computer Scrabble. Fiction? At 8:00 p.m., my brain’s starting to drag, but that’s often when the day’s chores are finally done. And yet…
And yet, I committed to Jeff Goins’ My 500 Word challenge because I find that I still need to write despite a busy, busy life. Making rugs fulfills A LOT of the creative hunger that’s in my soul. I love the colors, the textures inherent to fiber art. There’s the challenge to make the mat visually arresting, to better my technique. But it’s not enough. Joining words, creating color and texture with them, is just as, if not more challenging. With rugs, I start with a piece of denim, a dyed strip of wool, rug yarn, a silk ribbon. The origins of a story are all in my mind – my imagination and past experiences.
Just coming up with a plot, the right words, the needed emotion, that’s the hard thing. Accessing them might even be painful given one’s imagination and past life experiences. But it’s worth it to me.
After a story of mine was published last fall, the first one in over a year, my mother no less, wondered why I keep at it. What reward could possibly be big enough given the work it takes to write, to rewrite, to edit and proofread over and over again? Is once-in-great-while publishing worth the habit of rejection? And keeping up with the business of publishing, isn’t that just one big, old pain in the ass? Yes.
Yes, yes, and yes! Writing has been time well spent for me. The words can be harsh task masters, but they are also generous. I can honestly say that I’ve received:
- A sense of accomplishment: Finishing the first draft of a story is exhilarating. Reminds me of when I used to run road races. I’ve been reminded of that these past couple of weeks as I get my 500 words down each day in this blog, my journal, and a notebook I use to “practice” writing.
- Confidence: Since I really started writing in earnest, I’ve had stories published in print and online, stories that have “placed” in national and international contests, started the Polished Paragraph business, written my church’s official history, served as the newsletter writer for a networking organization, and been asked to read submissions for a literary journal. Writing grant proposals for the food pantry I run? Yeah, I can do that.
- Friendships: I belong to two writing groups – one that “meets” online and the “live action” folks that meet at Barnes and Noble. I share writing a blog, get born, with a group of women who prefer to look at motherhood honestly rather than through the sugar-coated, rose-colored glasses that our culture usually prefers.
- The chance to give back: Reading for Fifth Wednesday can be a time consuming chore, especially like right now, at the tail end of our reading cycle. The stories are coming at me fast and furious. But, you know, I’m often on the other end of that process, the writer desperately wishing that some editor will love her story enough to print it. And if not, I’m hoping, at least, to receive a few words of encouragement or constructive criticism. So, I read those stories (even the 50-pagers that have no chance by the time I reach page 2) a-l-l the way through. And I try to write something to let that author know that he or she should keep trying.
- Respect: This is, perhaps, the most important gift that the words have afforded me. And I prefer most to see it in the words and actions of my daughter. She’s seen my struggles with writing, my rejections. She’s seen me get up off the floor and try again. And she’s witnessed the triumphs too. mostly because – in the house here – I’m not very humble or even gracious when I find out about a publication. There’s a little victory dance involved. I make up musical ditties. I flaunt my name in print… You get the picture. but the kid’s enrolled in the local high school’s arts academy concentrating on writing! How cool is that!
If you write, you must get something out of it. What’s the reward that makes it worthwhile for you to work with words?