Monday, October 31, 2011

That Crazy Love for Writing

The other night, when I was in one of my periodic "my writing stinks I don't know why I bother with this madness and I'll never get a novel published" moods, my husband ventured that he thought I enjoyed writing for the sake of writing, regardless of whether or not I had an audience. Well, not exactly, I tried to explain, without sounding like a raving egoist. Writing is about communication, fundamentally, and storytellers want their stories shared. He parried with the counterexample of diarists, who write for themselves. I admitted he had a point, but conceded my weakness - that's just not me. I guess I do want the validation of publication and someone else's approval. Isn't that embarrassing.

But now, thanks to Betsy Lerner's wonderful, funny, and instructive The Forest for the Trees, I can feel justified in being in good company! Lerner's book is the second of two I've read recently about the more personal, intimate sides of writing. She and Bonnie Friedman (in Writing Past Dark) explore the knotted mess of fear and ego that both propels and hinders writers. As Lerner reminds us, writers are people who write. She says, "When writers say they have no choice, what they mean is: Everything in the world conspired to make me quit but I kept going." Yes, that sounds about right.

Friedman and Lerner both urge writers to dig deeper into themselves, to use writing to express those burning emotions that are doing everything to evade our thoughts and our pens. That's a good reminder, I think -- encouragement to take risks with our characters and our readers. I know that my tendency to want to be nice to people bleeds into my writing and subverts my efforts to build tension. Thanks to my writing group and authors like Lerner and Friedman, I'm at least aware of the weakness and know to press myself.

Most importantly, I've been reminded that writing is hard work and slogging through the emotional roller coaster is a natural part of the process. As Lerner notes, "Writing is nothing but a long distance race. The same kind of hubris that can cripple a runner who doesn't properly train can also derail a writer from reaching his goal." With that in mind, it's nose to the grindstone. With a periodic pat on the back for seeing my first published story hit the streets. We'll all keep working at it!

Isn't the cover of The Forest for the Trees just beautiful??

1 comment:

Rowenna said...

So true--it is a marathon, not a sprint. And the steep hills are part of it just like the easy coasting :) Hope you're doing well!

Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma