Whenever I find myself paying a little too much attention to the small demons that whisper in my ear, telling me my writing is rubbish, to stop wasting my time pretending to be a writer, to do something worthwhile … blah blah blah … That’s when I reach for my comforting collection of writers’ words, which act like a tonic, a stimulant that gets me back on track.
Starting with Epictetus, who stated, very plainly, “If you wish to be a writer, write.”
This quote, by Immanuel Kant, is, most probably, the one that’s been with me the longest, ever since I decided to become a writer:
“Seek not the favour of the multitude, it is seldom got by honest and lawful means. But seek the testimony of the few, and number not the voices, but weigh them.”
Annoyingly, I didn’t make a note of who said this …
‘If you want to be a writer, you must read a lot and write a lot. Don’t read to study the craft; read because you like to read … The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing.’
This one, from James Van Pelt, gets me back in the right head-space whenever I think that being published is all that matters, and it gets in the way of writing – “To ever have a chance of being a published writer, you need to be a writer who writes even if there is no hope of ever being published because the act of writing is more important than the fate of writing … So write the best, damn stuff you can, tell the stories you want to read and if they never sell, stay happy with what you have done.”
I like this – what a beautiful way to say, ‘keep writing’ …
“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink and be filled up” ~ Stephen King
My most favourite ‘prompt’ to write, write, and then write some more has to be this – Jane Yolen talking about the magic word, the one that will get the book that’s in your head onto the page:
“BIC … Butt In Chair! Hard work is the only real magic there is.”
Now that I’m at the stage where I have finished my book(s), have worked through the list of agents, have amassed the rejections, I find myself at, what seems to be the hardest place yet. When I start to lost faith, I read what Sara Zarr said at a conference in New York in 2011, when she talked about being in the same limbo-like place in 2005, when an agent had told her:
“The time between when you are no longer a beginner but you are not yet in the business is the hardest … and one of the biggest frustrations is, no one can tell you how long this phase will last. There’s going to be a lot of waiting, and you are going to have to decide what you are going to do while you are waiting.”
Sara told her audience that it’s not about a book deal, or a good review, or a big advance. It’s about life. “The life that you create for you as an artist, and the love for that life may be the only thing that is totally yours … It takes a tremendous amount of faith to live a creative life … especially before you are published because there is no tangible evidence of its worth.”
I hope these replenishing reminders prove useful to any writer who needs to be hauled out of the, sadly familiar, black hole of doubt.