(the tyranny of the keyboard)
I love my "job." It's in quotes not because I don't get paid for it (I do) and not because it isn't work (it is) but because for as long as I can remember I thought I would be a writer.
And technically, mostly by accident and circumstance, and also because I get paid to do it, I am a writer, and it is actually how I make my living, so it qualifies as a job. There are two things I do as a writer:
1. Mercenary writing work: This is usually referred to as freelance writing, but in my head I see myself as a mercenary sailing the seas of the internet, loyal to no one country but getting the job done for all. In a less glamorous view, this is where people pay me to write blog posts, articles, and snippets of content, or they give me ducats to read their work and polish it. Sometimes I get credit, sometimes I don't (but I still post some of it to my Pinterest writing page). This is how the lights stay on and the bills get paid.
2. My own writing: This is the writing that I put off and generally procrastinate about but which gives me tremendous joy (when done well) and inconsolable heartache (when the words don't come).
It is to this heartache that I address this blog. The heartache of the lazy, the lost-for-words, the plain old what-the-hell-should-I-say days. There are, fortunately, thousands who have come before me, much more famous and skilled than I will ever be (let's be honest with ourselves), who can address the very issue of how to work when the work won't come.
I get a tremendous amount of solace from the knowledge that every writer in history has struggled to write. From just planting their hind end in the chair to actually putting words on paper or computer screen to people thinking that you don't have a real job because all you do is "dink around online," everything about writing is challenging. It is a beautiful thing that in this land of struggle there are kindred spirits, brilliant writers and artists, many of whom even in the midst of a crisis of writer's block proportions come to the same conclusion.
Write like a motherfucker.
While I am actually not a huge fan of Cheryl Strayed's, how can one argue with this?
“Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”
Another person I turn to frequently when the rock echoes at the bottom of the well is Chuck Close. He is an artist whose work has stayed with me, in large part because of the workman-like manner in which he constructs his pieces. He takes photographs of faces, and then, in an art-school-type way, enlarges them to huge proportions using a grid drawn on an enormous canvas (think 10'x10' portraits). The grid lines remain on the work; he doesn't erase them or attempt to cover them. This workman's dedication to The Job rings through one of the most profound pieces of advice on creativity that I have ever heard (or followed):
"Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work."
Show up, get to work: that is how the creation happens.
Write the crappy piece of writing. Take the horrible picture.
Feel bad about your awful work? Good. Filled with self-doubt? Even better.
"But the problem is that bad writers tend to have the self-confidence, while the good ones tend to have self-doubt."
Charles Bukowski knows a thing about self-doubt (and a good bit of self-loathing, I'll warrant). If you can somehow manage to show up anyway, to go to work, to dig the mine, then the work is its own reward. And if the vein goes away or the levy runs dry?
Back to Chuck Close:
"...the most interesting thing is to back yourself into your own corner where no one else’s answers will fit. You will somehow have to come up with your own personal solutions to this problem that you have set for yourself because no one else’s answers are applicable."
Back yourself into a corner and figure that shit out. Be honest in your writing in a way that is true to your own voice and where you come from and things will happen. If it feels fake, it is. If it feels true, it is (for you).
But above all, sit down, every day, and write.
Write like a motherfucker.
I share this advice when I most need to hear it, when my work is taking a turn for the better or the worse, when it is time for rubber and road to become acquainted and the mind is willing but the flesh is weak.
I share it because writing is lonely work that millions of people do (to the tune of a white-noisy two million blog posts a day) but no one really talks much about in person (kind of like masturbating, only way more than two million of us doing it at once).
I share it in hopes that you will add your own advice to the comments: what is your writing routine, and what do you do when the words don't come?