The Writing Life

I’ve been reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a handbook that seems, most obviously about developing a life of artistry, but hiding within its lines are secrets about life in general. The book has prompted me to think more seriously about my own life and what I want to accomplish in the future.

Simply stated, I want to write more. Of all the writing I have done, my greatest affection resides with poetry. But, poetry is a stern task master and will not tolerate inattention. She has taught me some lessons that I believe are life lessons as well. There are six of them.

Here they are.

The first lesson is that I do not, at all times, want to write. The impulse to not write comes from competing interests: reading, watching television, or taking a nap. Most of the time I find that these, at the moment, have stronger intensity and require strength and will to resist.

Second, I have learned that at some times I am arrogant. By that I mean that I think I can get along without writing. I believe that there is nothing it can teach me. This is the worst sort of impulse.

Third, I have learned the extent to which I can be lazy or indifferent about writing. Like a scorned lover, I can almost sense my pen’s feeling my neglect or disdain. It makes me sad that something so weak can seduce my affection for the moment.

Fourth, I have learned that writing is hard, time-consuming work. That I must pick up the pen and write, no matter how good or, mostly, bad it is. As the trope goes, “anything worth doing is worth doing badly to get it started.” The act of writing almost never fails to jar loose some new thought, however poorly conceived it may be.

Fifth, I learn that my writing life remains stagnant to the degree that I give in to the poor impulses I often have.

And finally, I learn that the writing Muse does not visit me if I do not spend time, however poor or distracted it might be, with pen in hand and eyes on the blank page. It sounds too simple as a creative principle, but it’s the most powerful way to make one’s life meaningful. Pen in hand. Eyes on page.

Every good writer says things like this. Every book that attempts to mentor new writers will have similar lessons to teach. Struggle, discipline, and hard work are the fertilizer of a life of quality writing.

Or anything else, for that matter.