I came across this post today by Lauren Sapala, and it struck me (not like a lightning bolt, more like a forehead slap) because it explains so well how I envision a writer. Not the I-stopped-writing-because-a-writing-professor-said-I-was-no-good part, but the when-writers-don’t-write-it-is-more-than-a-hobby-we’re-ignoring part.
When we don’t write:
Quote: It’s an essential part of our being that is being neglected. It’s like slowly starving yourself.
I’ve just recently learned how true this is. Okay, it took me a lo-o-o-o-n-g time to figure it out, but it’s so true. For myself, when I don’t write for a few days, I get anxious, antsy, frustrated, grumpy, and I’m sure my family could come up with a few more adjectives.
Once I finally realize why I feel off, I pick up a notebook and a pencil, or fire up my computer, and start writing. Nothing specific, nothing necessarily for any project I’ve got in the queue, just writing. Sometimes it’s even a rant about how flipping cold it is but it’s still better than last year’s winter. Sometimes it’s just writing down my internal dialog (yes, I know I need to dust, but it’ll just come back in a couple days, and I really should take down the Christmas tree because Christmas is over, and I need to do a load of whites because I’m running out of good socks). You get the picture.
And presto! After a couple hundred words or so, I feel better. Noticeably better. It’s almost as good as a half-hour running program on the treadmill (I’d run outside, but I draw the line at fifty degrees. And there’s no way in this world I’m running in 30-below wind chill. Ain’t happenin’.). And tacking on a writing session after a treadmill session is even better.
So, when I read Lauren’s post, especially the last half of it, I felt validated. The beginning of the post just made me sad that she’d taken a single writing professor’s words so much to heart. As I continually remind myself, and any of my writing cohorts who start to doubt their authoring efforts, writing is an art. Art is subjective. So, not everyone will like your writing. Not everyone will dislike your writing. It’d be like someone telling Sting he can’t sing or write music and he should try a different line of work. You may feel the same, but I happen to think Sting is a great singer/songwriter.
But even if no one likes your writing, and you are a writer, for heaven’s sake, don’t stop writing. Writing well takes lots of practice. And more practice. And a bit of luck, a good Muse, and good writing/critique partners. If you are a writer, you won’t be able to stop writing. If you do, there will be a point at which you will feel as Lauren described: real pain in your body, like a choking grief or a simmering rage.
Been there. It just took me a really long time to realize I felt that way largely because I wasn’t writing.
Bottom line, listen to your intuition–and your Muse. If you’re a writer, you HAVE to write. So write. You’ll feel better, and you’ll be practicing your art.