I’ve been thinking about us women and our writing habits. What are you writing? Are you writing? Are you writing enough?
If you’re like me, not enough. I’ve been writing—a little; professoring—a lot. But I want to write more.
Many days I am a woman who wishes to write but cannot. Sure, I’ve been published. But many days I feel stifled. The female writing experience has often kept us closeted writers. Life experiences make it so we are unable to find our way, and we began to feel uncertain, displaced, and frustrated when we can’t find the time we need to write.
Yet writing is a healing place where we can collect the bits and pieces, where we can put them together. It is a sanctuary, a safe place. Most of the women I talk to write because we need to make sense of the world we live in. Writing is a way to clarify, figure out, interpret.
So, in 2021, I’m returning to the roots of what I do, which is to help myself and women like me find voice, because coming to written voice at all against complex odds is an exhausting achievement.
“We do not write because we must; we always have a choice. We write because language is the way we keep ahold on life.” – bell hooks (p. 13 Remembered Rapture)
Have you read/heard/been told to read the kind of articles/stories/poems/books you want to write?
It’s good advice, because when you read what you want to write, you are training your brain. Each sentence, each paragraph is actively teaching you as you go.
What is it teaching you? The structure and pacing of that genre.
So, go enjoy an article, a poem, a book. Call it research. Your writer-self will thank you.
Are you writing a novel? I am.
Writing a novel requires the creation of a living, breathing alternative world. That’s hard work.
It takes years to write a book, between one and ten years. Annie Dillard says, “Less is so rare as to be statistically insignificant.”
When it bothers you that it’s taking you a long time to finish your manuscript, don’t give up. Keep going. Keep writing. Keep revising.
Really hard. It just is. As soon as you accept this, you can stop resisting, and start putting your energy toward moving forward.
Don’t bother looking for shortcuts. It takes time and hard work.
Don’t listen to charlatan’s who say it’s easy. Writing is never easy, and on some days it’s not even fun. But for writers, writing is the only thing worth doing.
“Writing a book [substitute your favorite genre for book] is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”–George Orwell, author of literary classics 1984 and Animal Farm
Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.
I read every day. I tell my students to read and read widely.
Reading is the one necessary prerequisite for writing.
If you’re a reader, you know the forms and conventions of writing and how others use the forms and conventions to shape their work. You know how to write.
Maybe you don’t know how to begin or continue or finish. Maybe you don’t know how to publish what you’ve written.
But I’m here to tell you that you do know how to write.
The rest can be learned.
This blog can help.
“A word after a word after a word is power,” says novelist Margaret Atwood.
Today is January 9. We’re leaning into the end of the second week of January 2020. What have you written this year? What are you writing today?
Cynthia Ozick said, “If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage.”
To sit down and write when you have dozens of other pressing demands, takes courage. But there is no other way to write.
Today let’s remember Katherine Anne Porter’s words: One of the marks of a gift is to have the courage of it.
I’m thinking about this today. Reminding myself, remind my students, reminding you, dear writer . . . Writing is a huge undertaking, immense; it take more than all you have when you begin.