from The Writer’s Book of Inspiration
Writing is love. It’s the beating heart pulsing on paper. It is music, magic, and mystery, an effort to gain mastery of forces, of impulses, of desires, of ideas, of life. To those who feel an intense magnetic pull to write, little explanation of the phenomenon is required. You know who you are. You also know the pull is only the beginning. There is a reason others look upon those who write as they would mythical creatures, like unicorns and dragons: Writers have the power to name and to reveal. Once you sense this possibility in yourself, you likely will be hooked on it forever.
Yes, writers are admired. But writers should also be suspect. Watch out. Everything is fair game to writers. Their lives—meaning anything and everything they feel, think, do, experience, observe, or dream about—can and probably will show up in their poems, plays, films, essays, and books. As admirable as they may be, writers can also be dangerous.
As a writer myself, I feel I’m always trying to capture fireflies in a jar. But how does one capture a dynamic, moving force like life or an emotion in images without it losing its vitality? How can one put a frame around a picture that has no beginning and no end? I always do my best to approximate my perceptions in words. But some days I’m a better writer than on other days. Some days my writing sucks. On the best days, there’s nothing like the feeling of writing.
No one can stop you from writing if you want to write. That’s one of the beautiful things about it. You might think that someone else has to give you permission. That’s a false belief. Writers really get better at writing when they stop looking for approval—both their own and others’. For encouragement, I used to keep a note stuck up above my desk that read: “Be bold.” Then there was the time in a Chinese restaurant that I got a fortune cookie informing me, “One day you will write a book.” I taped that above my computer screen. Whatever message you need to hear to grant yourself the freedom to write whatever you want to write, tell it to yourself.
It’s only human nature to compare ourselves to other people and study their habits. It’s human to want to belong to a tribe, to fit in. For these reasons, it is fun to observe how other writers write and live. How do they do it? What does it mean to them? Am I the same way? I hope you’ll be excited to flip around in this book and see what random pages you land on.
When I began compiling quotations for The Writer’s Book of Inspiration, I was impressed with the extraordinary highs and lows creative writers experience while pursuing the craft. Some describe virtually tearing their hair out in desperation, others are pragmatic, even mercenary, and compulsive, and many express delight and spiritual wonder. The ones I love best are those that provoked me to laugh and to think. They all made me proud to call myself a writer and lifted my self-esteem. In these remarks from men and women of different ages, races, and eras, I felt a mirror being held up to my daily life as a craftsperson, an artist, and a living human being. There is tremendous humanity to be found in how they go about and often struggle at doing their best work. Nothing else matters more, when you get right down to it than being human—with all that it means.
The literary life is a path of self-discovery and revelation. If you have chosen to walk this well-worn path, remember to step a little bit outside of the bounds of cultural expectations from time to time. Trample the grass—or better, take off your shoes and feel the grass between your toes. Never rush and always daydream. Nap at strange hours. Design your own rituals. Ignore the ringing telephone, and other forms of buzzing, chiming, beeping technology. Let yourself forget what day of the week it is. Travel. Read. Cultivate relationships with odd and curious people. Whatever it is you feel, whatever you think or believe, make the blank page your friend and no matter where you go, you’ll be at home and have something to do. Be surprised by life.
Excerpt from The Writer’s Book of Inspiration: Quotes on Writing and the Literary Life, compiled and edited by Stephanie Gunning, reprinted by permission of Creative Blast Press. Copyright (c) 2013 by Stephanie Gunning. All rights reserved.
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