“But how?” my students ask. “How do you actually do it?”
“You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on the computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind — a scene, a locale, a character, whatever — and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind.”
– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Wisdom for writers everywhere.
Just a quick tangent:
I posted earlier about my new book, and I mentioned in the post that it has language that some people will find offensive. I felt that, creatively, the language was justified because of the genre, the characters, and the general tone I was trying to create.
But that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with it. In fact, one of the sweetest ladies I know just bought my book and I immediately sent her a Facebook message to let her know it wasn’t going to be an easy read. In fact, her opinion of me might drastically change by reading the book.
Part of me struggles with that; I don’t want to hurt people, intentionally or otherwise, but at the same time, I can’t always write what people expect me to. I’m not trying to offend anyone with the things I publish, but that chance is always out there. I’m learning that I have to make my peace with my inability to be everything that people expect me to be, and that’s hard.
I love the people that I have spent the last fifteen years around, and I want them to feel like the time and love they invested in me was for the better. I know some people will be bothered by my choices in the book, and I acknowledge that their perception of me may change. But I ask those that do read it to understand the difference between the person who wrote the book and the characters contained therein.
Hopefully, that might make a difference. If not, then let me say, from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry if you’re hurt.
Normally I don’t post twice in one day, but as this will be short post that will only appeal to a select few people out there, I figure it won’t hurt anything. This is for all my fellow writers out there. Today, I was the featured article for ChurchLeaders.com – which I got because they happened to read a blog I guest posted on Ed Stetzer’s website. It may not be a Pulitzer prize, but it’s progress in my career. Another credit. A wider audience.
You know how sometimes you sit over the keyboard and sweat blood trying to think of what exactly it is that you’re trying to say? You know something’s inside of you, dying to get out and onto that computer screen, but your fingers and your brain aren’t speaking to one another so you just sit there and stare at a tauntingly empty screen. You pray. You offer mental bargains to yourself. Nothing works. You despair you’ll ever make it as a writer.
If you identify in any way with the above paragraph, I would just like to encourage you today. It’s worth it. Every little ounce of time and sweat and energy that you put into a piece is totally, completely worth it. Because someone, somewhere, reads it. And someone, somewhere, cares.
Keep writing. Keep believing that your words matter.
Because to someone, somewhere, they do.
I’ve only recently discovered writer Chuck Klosterman, thanks mostly to his amazing work on the hybrid site Grantland (brought to you by Subway and Klondike bars, which should tell you something about the site’s target audience). Since reading several of Klosterman’s Grantland pieces, I’ve branched out to his books. I liked Eating the Dinosaur. I’ve only just checked out Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story.
So I’m still deciding on whether I’m ready to put him next to David Foster Wallace, Bill Simmons, and Malcolm Gladwell on my non-fiction writers Mount Rushmore (a concept, conveniently, that I stole from Bill Simmons himself – you have to scroll down to the question about the Mount Rushmore of Rap).
The following YouTube link, from Klosterman’s most recent Grantland piece, may have just cemented my undying love for him. Is there anything better than a Michael Jackson Medley on a Keytar?
Thank you, Chuck Klosterman. You made my day.
I’ve been privileged the past couple of weeks to write about some wonderful people doing some wonderful things, all because of my association with the Loganville/Grayson Patch. I’ve been able to write about a local princess named Courtney Hinesley, some friends of mine (Lee and Rebecca Pylant) and the business they built for their daughter, and today I got to write about an extraordinary group of men and women who are working hard to re-introduce the concept of art as/in worship (Proskuneo Institute).
It’s a good feeling when you write to help others.
Admittedly, blogging is quite easily an egotistical effort; you can often end up writing because you want someone to read your work. You get consumed with site visits, original views, comments, pingbacks, trackbacks, recommendations, FB likes, tweets, and Diggs. You can very quickly become that most loathsome of creatures: the arrogant amateur.
Been there. Done that. Repeated the process four or five times.
Now, no blog post is written without some thought as to who might read it, but it’s different when you want to share someone’s message instead of your own. Being able to write about local people who are doing fascinating things is one of the things that inspired me to write in the first place; heck, I even tried the UGA Journalism school before I thought myself too good for the profession. I regret my conceit.
Time has a funny way of bringing you full circle, and I’ve done that with regard to my writing. It’s been an interesting trip – one with explorations of fiction and noir and memoir and poetry – but I’ve ended up where I began: wanting to explore the big questions of life through the narrow prism of my own. There may be future trips ahead, but I can say that I’ve found who I am. I know what my voice sounds like now.
And it’s been nice to use it for the benefit of others.