I do what I can to get work done. That doesn’t mean any one thing, though. It just means I try everything. On a daily basis. (From “An Interview with David Anthony Durham” in The Writer’s Chronicle, Volume 46, Number 4, February 2014)
Gent confessed in a new preface he wrote for “North Dallas Forty” in 2003, that “writing is the only thing I have done that comes to being as terrifying as being a football player.” (From the essay on George Sauer from The New York Times Magazine, December 29, 2013)
For the vast majority of us, launching a book means almost nothing in terms of dollars earned. What it does mean is that somewhere out there, someone is closing the loop — truly hearing what we needed to say — and that is why we do this in the first place. (From One Last Word, blog post by Kim Triedman)
It’s late Sunday afternoon and these three quotes are swirling around in my head. I’ve transcribed them in the order in which I read them, all within an a 24-hour period: the interview with Durham last night, the essay on George Sauer this morning, and the quote from Kim Triedman this afternoon when I finally logged onto to my email. And while trying to compose this post, I had a wonderful exchange with Margaret Langstaff regarding her post on Flannery O’Connor‘s letters. By the way, that exchange took me to reminiscing about my English grad student days, some twenty years ago now. There’s much I miss about those days; there’s much that I don’t.
But what about these quotes? First, the interview with Durham. Here is a young man (ok, young relative to my age) who has published six novels, three of which comprise a fantasy triology. Before I even start reading the interview, my eyes land on this quote showcased in the middle of the page: I’ve never believed in waiting for inspiration. I find inspired moments and plot developments and character growth come as a product of putting fingers to keys and typing. I like that quote very much, especially since he goes on to say: Breakthroughs are my version of a runner’s high. They only happen after I’ve been exhausting myself with slogging forward for a while. In this part of the interview, he describes how his writing process has “devolved” because life seems busier, with more distractions. I always feel a little gratified and even a little vindicated when I read that an author of many published books struggles to find time to write, perhaps in part because the writing process for him is a “slog.” Writing for me is a slog, too. I’m a slow reader. I’m a slow writer. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days does not make me a fast writer. As long as I don’t have to reread and revise, I can write fast. But when it’s time to take the measure of those 50,000 words, my “writing” slows to a pace that looks pretty much like standing still.
Which brings me to the second quote: Fear. The suggestion that writing could be almost as terrifying as being a football player (and this being said by a former football player) made me almost spill my coffee. It broke my heart to read that Sauer spent the rest of his life wandering, writing constantly but never publishing. He couldn’t bear the imperfections of his own prose […]. I know my writing is imperfect. But what will keep me from being published: my fear or my imperfections? I can only try to improve on the latter but the former feels like a constant companion, one that has promised to stay with me until death do us part.
And this fear I ruminated on (and moped about) for the rest of my Sunday until I opened my email account and found Kim Triedman‘s post. Specifically, the point about why we write (to make money or to “close the loop”) was like a kick in my butt (albeit, a soft one). I realized then (or rather, remembered) that my drive to write is mainly born out of that need to “close the loop.” To be heard, to be read. Why else would have I have started telling/writing stories when I was a kid? Why else would I have a blog? Why else do I experience that perpetual push-pull of my fear of rejection with my desire to be read, even by someone who eventually rejects my story?
Maybe because I’m inspired by Kim’s quote, or maybe because I’m starting to fancy getting a coffee and cookie from our local B&N, I feel better about being a writer. Despite my imperfections (or maybe to spite them), I will reread and rewrite and revise and eventually find my way to publication.
Or maybe it’s really George Sauer who inspires me. To write constantly and yet never be published, even in your own blog, seems very very sad. I wish that Sauer had been able to “close the loop.”