16 January 2015

Writing Isn't Work Because It Isn't Difficult

Writing is a relationship that you choose to have. Commit to being loyal, devoted, and faithful to it. Give it your attention.
~ The Write Life

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h! You’re a writer?  That’s not hard work ~ I could do that!  It’s not like you’re working in a mine on a 12 hour shift.”

I often hear some variation of this statement.  So often, that a little piece of the typewriter inside me breaks each time.  So often, I wonder why I write at all.  So often, that I begin to believe the lie.

And for a writer, that spells doom.

Yes, there are moments ~ sometimes whole days of them ~ when writing feels effortless.  As if I can just speak a Potteresque “I solemnly swear I am a writer” and the words magically appear on the page. When ideas flow over me like rapids in a river.  And affirmations and comments pop up like dandelions on my blog.

But if I believe that writing (or any of the arts, really) is always effortless, the moment it ceases to be and becomes arduous and monotonous and boring, I quit.  I feel sad, discouraged.  Or restless and uneasy.  Like an addict, I rush to fill that gnawing ache in my gut with minutes on Twitter, hours on Facebook, and days on Pinterest.

Yet no matter how many times I tweet, update my status, or pin images of wise sayings ~ that gaping hole inside never gets filled.

This cycle of starts and stops, excitement and discouragement has been my life for as long as I can remember.  I felt powerless to change it, sometimes not even aware the cycle was repeating until my pens and paper had long collected dust.  

No matter how many times my friends would tell me I needed to write. No matter how many writing courses I took.  No matter how many articles on writing and being a better writer I read.  Nothing pierced the thick walls of doubt and discouragement.  Nothing convinced me that I had a gift, much less one worth sharing.

Until Harvester Island.

At the Wilderness Writing Workshop, I was surrounded by loving, accepting, talented writers.  Writers who read my work, showed me where it needed improvement, and declared it a gift worth sharing.  A gift worth honing. 

A gift worth the hard work and commitment.

In the ensuing weeks after my return home, I rode a high, cocooned in a writerly honeymoon stage.  The writing was copious, effortless, easy.  Not hard work at all.  But as time wore on, and outside influences ~ negative influences ~ pressed in, I forgot.  Forgot that love ~ of any kind ~ demands commitment, patience, and work.

It wasn’t long before the ink dried up, the words disappeared, and my heart shut down.

I tried to ignore it, that ache.  Filled my time with social media and throwaway books.  Sometimes, this would backfire.  I would read something and think, That position is outrageous!  I need to write an article about that.  Or a thought would come to me, I’d talk it out in my head and think,  When I get to my desk, I need to write this down.

But it never happened.  I never wrote those articles or jotted down my thoughts and reflections.  Because who was I kidding?  No one wants to hear what I have to say.  And even if they did, nothing I write comes out perfect.  My first drafts are terrible ~ rambling, emotional, boring.

Despite this inner angsty whirlpool, I managed to write pieces here and there.  Usually completed a couple of days before my monthly writers’ group at Water Street Studio.  Except I went to the last meeting empty handed.  I had a piece at home, a first draft so bad even I was bored and disgusted with it.  So I didn’t share it.  And that night, warmth and love broke through the negativity.  Again.

But that’s what this group is for!  To share our works in progress, to bounce ideas off each other, and work on our writing, no matter how crappy our first drafts. You're in a safe place.

I almost cried with gratitude and relief.  It was as if I needed permission to write crap.  Permission to work hard, to write and rewrite and rewrite again.  To have first and second and third drafts that even a gossip rag wouldn’t print.  Because that’s what a writer does: she sits in a chair even when she doesn’t want to and wrestles with words and ideas.

You could even say, she mines for them.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Are you committed to your art?

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