My Labor Day reflections on creative writing:
Creativity is not dead, though we unwittingly conspire to starve it. We writers are killing our own children, and why? To conform to what we think readers want. To conform to what agents, editors, and publishers are demanding. In writing what we think others want we’re starving our kids, we’re pimping them into slavery. Yes, most of us are abusive parents.
Let’s say you’ve been working on your current project (at least in your mind) for some time now. Months. Maybe years. Decades. Maybe you’ve got an outline. Or not. Maybe you’ve written the first three chapters. Or maybe your story is still a wordless idea, vivid but elusive as a memory. Quite possibly you’re already a published author. In any case, you’re reading this because you’re afraid you’ve lost your voice; your vision is fading. The more you grasp at your idea, the more it slides between your fingers.
Or you’re writing in circles and it all comes out shit.
At this point you’re beginning to doubt your ability to write at all. You’ve thought about giving up the sport altogether, kicking the habit, like cigarettes or cocaine, but you can’t stop thinking about it. Your story. Your idea. You know — that book in your head? In your imagination it’s perfect but when you put words on the screen it doesn’t do it justice. You’re afraid it will fail. What if it gets bad reviews? Worse yet, what if it is ignored? What if…
All around you people are writing books, publishing books — the world is a glut of books. So many books about how to write: about structuring, plot, voice, theme, scenes, how to create protagonists and villains, how to write great dialogue, how to find an agent, how to self-publish, how to market – and most of these are written by authors you’ve never heard of. Every social media site hosts writing groups and self-appointed gurus who tell you how to write better – what you should be writing and how.
I cringe at the word “should.” Let’s forget about “should” and concentrate on could. Or would. What would you create, if you could? What would happen if you just wrote what you felt like writing? What you were compelled to write? What if you wrote like nobody was reading but you?
Turn off social media. Put aside all of your “how to write” books. Take a break from reading “how to write” blog posts and feed your baby with what you’ve got. Write Now. Write discover, to create, to nurture. Don’t edit as you write; just get the words down on the page. Gradually a theme will emerge, the heart will begin to beat. Automaticity is inherent in cardiac tissue. Your job as a parent is to capture the messy essence of the story. Hard work? You bet. Going through hell? Keep going.
Need inspiration? Read more of what you like. Infuse your mind with the stories of others. If you lose your wind and are adrift, get out the oars and row. Brainstorm your story with a trusted writer friend. Try working with a co-writer. Read your work aloud. Have faith.
Creativity is not dead, though many are conspiring to strangle it in its infancy. Forget publication, forget sales, forget fame. If you want to be famous, change your name to Kardashian. Your responsibility is to write what only you can. Find your voice and take chances on the page. Write for yourself and it will be fresh and true and enduring. If one other human being reads what you’ve written and connects with you through it, you’re a success.