Friday, June 17, 2005

What Turns Writers On

It has been said that the art of writing is the art of applying the seat of one's pants to the seat of one's chair.

There's more than a ring of truth in those words. In fact, I hear truth clamouring like the cathedral bells that jolted me awake last Sunday.

Yet, the phrase--witty as it may be--doesn't capture the joy, the compulsion or the depth of a writer's passion.

Just the drudgery.

It's a rather Calvinist approach to art.

It's like the well-intentioned, perfectly reasonable advice to set an egg timer and write for 10, 20 or 60 minutes a day. "You too can write a novel in just one hour a week!"

I don't mean to judge. Writing is work; it is hard, lonely, terrifying and unforgiving work.

But I suspect that you, like me, began to feel a bit like a writer because it was fun and rewarding. Your story about Zippy the Turtle made you the Judy Blume of second grade. Dammit, Janet! You were hooked.

Then, one day, perhaps years after your BFA or a stint as a magazine intern, you trudged wearily to your desk and thought "What the &*$%@ was I thinking? This sucks".

The truth: writing does suck sometimes. Hell, writing sucks most of the time. I'm rarely as happy writing as I am when I've finished writing.

The Procrastiwriter calls all weary writers. It calls us to get our butts out of our chairs and to get back out into the world--or at least out of our heads for a short while.

It calls us to be struck by the wonder and minutiae of the world, to let ideas ferment slowly or sizzle and spark at their will, to find joy once more in the creative process.

Throw out that eggtimer, sister! Instead, dig around in the dirt. Knit a scarf. Meditate. Do whatever it is that inspires and enthralls you.

Then plant your rump down and write while the writing is good!

Afterwards, send me a line.

I want to know what turns other writers on.