Yoga for the mind
Thanks to Celina for this line. I had no other grand themes to discuss today, but when I read this line, I knew I just had to repost it. Can we go Zen on it? Has she been reading some scifaiku on the sly? No, I doubt it. She makes some good points about blogging as invaluable exercise for writings in this post, but it's the post before it that made me want to say, 'Amen.' There remains in many circles an overpowering romantic image of the struggling artist, pulled by the whims of a muse. And there are times when it's valuable to think of writing in this way. There are times when the creativity just doesn't seem to be there, and I don't think it's merely a phase young writers go through. We all have cycles of productivity and stagnation no matter how disciplined we are. But...
No, this needs a new paragraph. But the discipline has to be there. Too many people I run into get so hung up on the muse image, on the I-must-wait-for-the-inspiration dead-end. Certainly there are days when I get little done (including recently)...though even then, as I try to decide which route to take I am accomplishing something. But I think there's a strong danger in falling back on that waiting-for-the-inspiration thing anytime something gets difficult. You want to be a writer? Be ready to deal with those hard passages, with stories that you have to wrestle from your mind. If every time you run into a stumbling block you abandon the story, then you're not a writer. You play with words, little more.
One poet I studied in undergrad was William Stafford, who was known to hold himself to a poem every single day and recommended the same for aspiring poets. When asked what he did when he couldn't seem to write a good poem on a given day, he answered that then he writes a bad poem. People got in a huff, thinking he was advocating a slapdash approach to writing, thinking he was advising others to aim for mediocrity. But that's not it at all. The idea is that you use that discipline to write every day (or whatever works for you) without letting the fear of failure stop you.
So fail. Fail often. Learn from failure and have the discipline to bring success out of some of that failure as well.