My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Fortune Cookie Wisdom XII

Image description: Individually wrapped fortune cookies.
Greetings from Denver!

It's been a long time and we have LOTS of fortune cookie wisdom built up.

See....if you were the first writer in the whole damned world to think of that, you might be onto something. But now that it's a trope, a cliché, and overdone like Uncle Cecil's hamburger patties, maybe you want to think twice.

Everyone fails. And eventually, everyone fails HARD. The interesting part is what happens next. 

The most common root cause of writer's block is not trusting in the full writing process. As soon as you don't have absolute certainty that you're going to have to rewrite something half a dozen times, you begin to be paralyzed in front of the blank page, trying to get it perfect on the first go.

Millions of artists are unknown, uncelebrated, and uncompensated. They paint, compose, play instruments, sing in the shower, dance in their living rooms, carve wood into faces, fold paper into cranes, decorate wreaths, take pottery classes, snap pictures, doodle, and even write in ways that fulfill them but aren't intended to be consumed by a wider audience. Even those who display or perform their art often do so for their communities or their loved ones. They act season after season in theaters where the ticket price might go towards the strike party. They sing for town concerts for little more glory than the mayor being honestly impressed. They write fiction online for forums where their best days are a couple of emails telling them their words are really appreciated. Not every art has to be about "making it."

Shutting off my brain and "just" enjoying something are usually actually mutually exclusive.

I don't fucking understand why some rando writers will spend 100 solid hours researching the architecture of Byzantium brothels so that they can write a two page scene, but balk at reading a couple of books by women of color to understand how they view the struggles for equality a bit differently than most white men.

The reason so many people ask how to be a writer instead of how to write is that the former is what they really want. And when they hear that it really just involves doing the later, they shop the question around, tirelessly searching for someone who will tell them that the answer isn't to read a lot and write a lot.

I know writing is a lifeline. I've known that since my last major adult relationship of over a decade started to fall apart. I've known that when I tried to process my mother's alcoholism and eventual recovery. I've known that since I started to realize almost all my stories were in some way about redemption. I've known that when I faced the moments over and over in college–working two jobs to get by and studying every extra minute of the day–when it would have been easier to give up. I've known that since I was young that I needed writing like some people need to talk about their day or unwind in front of the TV.

Perhaps the strangest among the claims of the "edgy" are those on a Facebook page about writing trying to insist that mere words have no real power. Words don't need to rip your flesh off like an X-men superpower to cause real harm.

You don't have to make daily writing so hard. Writing is a skill. It's like playing basketball, playing the cello, or playing World of Warcraft. If you don't do it, you get rusty. If you don't do it for long enough you kind of start to suck again. If you do it a little, you don't really improve and people who are trying hard will pass you like you're standing still. If you do it every day, you'll get better. If you really push yourself to be the best you can every day, you improve remarkably in a relatively short time.

See, there's nothing wrong with wanting dedicated time or a desk or even a room of one's own. But here's the take home and there's no getting around it: For most people, it's never really one thing. It's always one MORE thing. Once they get a laptop, they need a desk. Once they get a desk, they need a room. Once they get a room, they need uninterrupted time. And on it goes.

If your soul burns to write. Write. Don't wait for the opportunity to be perfect or that one obstacle to go away or the time when work isn't going to be so rough or the kids to go to school or the planets to align or to get that snazzy laptop or when you can dig out the old sewing room and make it into an office. Find some time and space and write. Because one thing you absolutely positively unequivocally do not have an endless supply of is tomorrows. It's later than you think.

Navigating getting paid is the fish fork of the art world. And the bourgeois anesthetized art world that it creates, afraid to acknowledge that art is work, and artists don't all have trust funds and rich spouses, suffers for its lack of voices.

If you write, you're a writer. That's the part that changes your life. That's the part that opens up your world. That's the part that makes a difference. That's the art and the catharsis. That's the part that makes you feel whole when the bottom falls out–as it will do because life is kind of like that. If you write unpaid, unread, in your room for the sheer joy of it, ferreting your pages into the back of a drawer.... YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. Everything else is just frosting.

Not enough! Need more fortune cookie wisdom! 

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