art of writing
“When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” ~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.
I love great quotations and epigraph. In fact, my original draft of Transcender: First Timer, featured an epigraph at the beginning of each chapter, but due to space and copyright considerations, I dropped them before publishing the book. Since, as you may have noticed, I’ve had a bit of difficulty keeping up with my blog recently *blushes*, which I attribute to lack of a consistent theme, I’ve decided to select a favorite quotation or epigraph each week and write about it here.
I chose to begin this blog series with one of my favorite quotations on writing from Steven Pressfield’s the War of Art, a book I highly recommend to any writer or aspiring writer. For me, the above quotation beautifully sums up a strange phenomenon that sometimes occurs when I’m writing. During those mystical magical times, when I’m in the zone and the elusive Muse drops by for tea, the story takes on a life of it’s own, almost as if it’s writing itself. It can be an eerie experience. I’ve had characters say and do things I never planned or even dreamed of including in the storyline. But in that otherworldly place where my own existence is subservient to the narrative, it’s the characters’ story not mine, and I’ve found it best to let them run with it.
For example [spoiler alert if you haven’t read the entire Transcender Trilogy]: In a scene in Book Two of the Trilogy, one character tells another that someone with whom she is close is not human at all, but an automaton. Of course she was stunned to learn this—but so was I! It definitely was NOT a planned plot element. I soon realized, however, I should have known it all along, and if he could fool me, he could certainly fool her. In fact it worked so well with the rest of the story that I couldn’t imagine why I hadn’t thought of it in the first place.
These are the mind-blowing moments that make all the drudgery, anxiety, and crippling self-doubt of being a writer worthwhile. Of course, it takes some sustained writing for this marvel to occur, but anyone who has slogged away crafting an entire book has most likely entertained the Muse on more than one occasion. Here’s hoping she visits you (and me) often!
Wishing you happy reading and writing and Happy Father’s Day to all you dads or surrogate dad’s out there!
Are you a writer? Do you actually tell people you’re a writer? If so, do you get questions like “Are you famous?” “Are your books on the New York Times Bestseller list?” “Do you make any money at it?” In the past these questions intimidated me because, in my case, the answers are no, no, and none of your business.
Why do we writers find it so difficult to own up to our profession? Is it our insecurities? Is it that no higher authority has conferred the title upon us? Is it to avoid the probing questions that inevitably follow? For me it’s probably a combination of all of these.
When I graduated law school and passed the bar exam, I proudly proclaimed to anyone who would listen “I’m a lawyer.” My practical experience in the law at that point was paltry at best, but after years of law school and a grueling bar exam, I felt I’d earned the title, and I bandied it about like a badge of honor (though some people took it more as a condemnation than an accolade).
After a bit of thoughtful analysis, I believe the reason is that writing is such an utterly personal endeavor. If you’re doing it right it’s like pulling your guts inside out and exposing the rawest, most vulnerable parts to the world. I passed off my writing as a hobby for so long because I didn’t want anyone to know just how vulnerable I really was. I didn’t want them to observe my innards laid bare and say “is that all you got?”
Lawyers experience wins and losses. Every loss is a blow to the ego, but many factors, other than sheer talent or lack thereof, contribute to legal defeats—maybe the case was a dog to begin with, maybe the client made the all the wrong moves, and so on and so on. In other words, lawyers are handed someone else’s mess and asked to tidy it up as best they can. An unfavorable outcome can’t necessarily be blamed on the lawyer.
Writers on the other hand create something from nothing. We whip words and imagination into combinations as yet unknown on this earth. But if some careless reviewer or tactless acquaintance deems our creation more repugnant than ravishing, our world crashes down. We feel we somehow we don’t measure up, and we have only ourselves to blame. How ridiculous is that?
Writing is art, pure and simple.
Some will appreciate your work, some will not. If you have produced a piece of writing—be it a novel, short story, article, poem, whatever—and you’ve done your best, that, in and of itself, is an amazing accomplishment! You have a right to be proud. Claim it, own it, and have the courage to ignore others’ opinions. Shout from the rooftops “I’m a writer!” Once you wear the mantle proudly, I believe you become a better writer because you now take your role seriously.
It took some time for me to internalize this. But at a recent cocktail party, the hostess introduced me to another guest by saying “This is my friend, Vicky. She’s a lawyer too.” I shook hands with the gentleman and promptly set the record straight. “Actually, I’m an author,” I said. “I haven’t practiced law in years.”
The man nearly swooned with envy. “That’s fantastic! I bet you don’t miss the practice of law at all.”
His reaction made me smile. You know, I haven’t missed the law for a minute!
Do you ever balk at telling people you’re a writer? If so, why? For those of you who declare it proudly, when did you first feel comfortable calling yourself a writer?
I’m the author of the Transcender Trilogy, TRANSCENDER: First-Timer, STREAMING STARS, and the upcoming ILLLUMINOSITY, which blends science-fiction, fantasy, and romance in an exciting cross-dimensional adventure.