Notebook

Thoughts on writing from writers and other holy fools:

Anne Lamott

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California).” (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life) (this book is always exactly what I need)

Cheryl Strayed

“Buried beneath all the anxiety and sorrow and fear and self-loathing, there’s arrogance at its core. It presumes you should be successful at twenty-six, when really it takes most writers so much longer to get there… You loathe yourself, and yet you’re consumed by the grandiose ideas you have about your own importance. You’re up too high and down too low. Neither is the place where we get any work done. We get the work done on the ground level. And the kindest thing I can do for you is to tell you to get your ass on the floor. I know it’s hard to write, darling. But it’s harder not to. The only way you’ll find out if you “have it in you” is to get to work and see if you do. The only way to override your “limitations, insecurities, jealousies, and ineptitude” is to produce.” (Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar)

Elizabeth Gilbert

“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”  (Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear)

Charles D’Ambrosio

“When I’m putting words on paper, the self is more like a perspective, an angle of vision, a complicating factor, a questioning presence. If things are going really well, I forget myself completely, which is a relief, and in a way the forgetting, that loss of self, is a fairly good gauge of how involved I am in the work. I use the “I,” of course, and that slender pronoun offers an intimate register of feelings, thoughts, tones, but I’m so focussed on getting things right that even that “I” becomes impersonal. . . .

That dual allegiance, to the truth of the thing and to the truth of writing, inevitably takes you away from the merely heartfelt, it seems to me. In a way, writing maps a path out of the self. Instead of sobbing, you write sentences.” (New Yorker Interview)

Ray Bradbury:

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that G-d ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Julia Cameron:

“An artist who is not working is a miersarble creature and the best way to cure that misery is to work. We do not have to work a lot. We do not have to work a long time, but we do need to work. The itch to make something is an itch that only making something will scratch. It doesn’t need to be a good something –although it often is–it just needs to be something: a paragraph of prose, a rough sketch for a later paitning, a stanza of poetry, the first verse of a song. In order to work freely we must be willing to work badly, and once we are, we are often able to do good work indeed.” (Sound of Paper)

Patricia Wrede:

“First, write every day, whether you feel like it or not, even if it’s only a little bit — a paragraph or a sentence. Most people find that if they wait to be “inspired,” they never actually get anything finished. It’s not always an easy thing to do — in fact, most of us find it very difficult. But if you are going to be a writer, you have to learn how to make yourself write, because nobody else is going to do that for you. It’s not like school or a job, where you have a teacher or a boss standing over you expecting things done by Friday or you flunk or get fired.

And you learn to write by writing, just as you would learn to play the piano by practicing a lot. Most people don’t like hearing this, but writing is work, and it takes skill and practice, just like any other art. Also, no job is 100% fun, and writing is no exception. Every writer has things they don’t enjoy writing; for me, it’s transitions and “council scenes;” for one of my good friends, it’s action; for another, it’s detail and description. But it’s practically impossible to write a really good interesting novel that’s nothing but dialog, or nothing but action  or that doesn’t have any transitions or descriptions. You have to make yourself do the parts that aren’t fun, and do them as well as you can, because no one else is going to do them for you.” http://www.pcwrede.com/FAQ.html#youthadvice