It’s been almost two months since I wrote for my website. This may be because the last few things I’ve written have had some severe negative influences, especially the last article in which I talk about my history of self-harm.
So I sit down today to work on my novel, which is about the only thing I have been working on since then end of January, and I finally know I am ready to return to the website. January was a time of setting new goals and really trying to establish myself as the writer I want to be, reconciling it with the man I needed to be, and naturally it was fraught with some problems. Being a full-time manager, father, husband, friend, and part-time writer was something I needed to understand. These things take time… I’m still working on it. But April is approaching and yes, I have made some revelations on the matter. Here are a few:
1. Being an writer is a calling, but is that all you can hear?
To be a writer is to hear voices. We listen to our characters, our narratives, the very muses themselves. As a writer you cannot escape these voices, they will always be a part of you, they will always haunt you. Us writers always hear a beckoning onward, a voice that whispers for us to follow it. But being a happy writer is knowing not to obsess over the muse, rather to relegate it to where it belongs.
Imagine a man who prays fervently everyday to the gods that he may become more charitable. Imagine he prays for five hours a day, often over the midday. Suddenly his mother is sick and she needs help with preparing a meal and getting some errands done. If the man continues to pray for charity instead of helping his mother, then the man is a fool. He is worse than that, he is an arrogant fool, who listens for what he is not willing to hear, and permits the suffering of others at his own expense.
Many writers (and wannabe writers) do exactly that. They choose to listen to their work and constantly tinker with it at the expense of their family or their own health. They strain always for the muse. But there is paradox in this. I have learned that the muse speaks clearest when you do not strain for her. She prefers to approach when you are hard to attain. I was running to the bus a few days ago when out of nowhere about three plot points in my novel just clicked. The muse likes to come when you are not attending to her every need. Instead, bring a journal wherever you go. Write in shorter bursts. Take the time to live be playful with your calling and you will not only create more, but you will be happier as you do it.
2. Writing is more than just writing.
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the rhetoric that writers are only writers if they’re actually writing. Without words on the page it seems like there has been no progress. What amateur writers (and many professional writers) often do is sit there and have a pity party when they aren’t able to bang out their word counts. Woe is them, writing is so hard, they’re just not getting anywhere. But that isn’t true. We forget that writing is a skill of communication. All writing really is is a device to relay information. Getting good at the skill of writing is important, but you need more than that to be a good writer.
For example, communications majors may learn a great deal about the technical skill of writing, like how to properly construct a sentence, but they do not learn what to communicate. Being a good writer is less about how you communicate than what you communicate. You only learn what is worth communicating by getting up from the computer and living. Yes, know your craft. But be humble enough to forget your craft. Go out and spend an evening with your Grandmother. Go see a play. Play beach Volleyball and get some sunburn. Laugh until your sides hurt. Without living a full life your writing will always be empty of substance. Worse than that, you will be empty.
3. When writing hurts, it might be because you’re healing.
I made the mistake in my last article to end on the note that writing is like causing harm to oneself. I said that I had to bleed in one form or another, either with self-harm or with writing, to be sane, but these were the words of a depressed man.
I didn’t see it then but I know now that writing is also healing. It may hurt, but that’s only because I am cauterizing the wounds of my past, bandaging the self-inflicted scars I have created. To write is to pour your blood into the work, yes—but the blood may have needed to go. The pen becomes the blood-letter.
So I guess I am saying this to you as much as I am to myself, but go forth and heal. Order your life properly and learn to love it. You never know what the future will bring, so say to the present, “If me and you are going to be living together like this, we best get along.”
When the words become hard to write, nothing is wrong with walking away from them to become grounded again. We are human, we can walk when we can’t think. We can work when we can’t cry.
And we can heal.