Steve Almond Takes Us to Town

Most of the time, writing requires a lot of chugging along, and a lot of resistance towards hating other people.  Especially people who do well in the field.  It’s because we have this illusion that when other people get things, those things must have fallen in their laps without any effort.  Of course we know deep down this isn’t true (more likely, we resent the fact that we haven’t made the time to work as hard as other people), but this ridiculous idea translates into our own entitlement and prohibits us from enjoying other people’s work. Even when that work is really, really good.

In a recent article from Poets and Writers, Steve Almond tells the truth about how jaded we’ve become as writers.

He says,

…entitlement is the enemy of artistic progress, which requires patience and gratitude and, above all, humility. You don’t grow as a writer by writing off other people’s efforts. You grow as a writer by respecting the process.

The more we write, the more we understand how hard that process actually is. The more we write, the harder it is to write.  It’s so easy to get discouraged, and discouragement makes it hard to appreciate what other people are writing.

(I’m speaking for myself, anyway.)

Let’s just acknowledge that we’re discouraged and try not to take it out on other people.

Grace and peace to you, other hardworking writers…

First Thought for the First Day of RTNM*

*That’s, “Revise the Novel Month.” Read my previous post from today for more information.

1. Stop focusing on what you don’t have and be grateful for what you do have.

This is not just writing advice, of course, but it’s especially helpful for writers.  Writing is one of the the best jobs in the world because it’s an art job.  By art job I mean, our work is a process of putting everything to good use.  Everything about our lives, I believe, could potentially make us better writers.  For me, this means, instead of flipping out because I don’t have a paycheck coming to me for the next two months, I can also see that the reason I don’t have a paycheck coming is because I don’t have a job.  Not having a job means not having work. Not having work means having a ton of time.  Time I won’t have as soon as work starts up again. (It also means I will spend less time at the bar–less money means less mornings wasted recovering from last night’s wine–more energy to work!) No job with paychecks this month means writing is my job this month.

If you do have a job alongside your writing, you get money and you don’t need to worry about how you’ll eat, so this is also good for your writing.  You also have access to a world of people who, if interacted with the right way, can enhance your writing (just as having a ton of time can enhance your writing).  If we have work outside of the home, then our job is to pay attention.  Also, to use our money towards making us better writers.  Paychecks=greater chance that you can afford to make it out to Seattle for AWP next year.

Part of being a healthy human is taking on the attitude: It’s all a gift. This is Rob Bell’s line, not mine. This kind of gratitude is definitely an important part of being a good writer.  Even bad things are gifts because they teach us how to be resilient.  Resistance (Steven Pressfield’s term for everything that might keep you from writing, from Facebook, to your dog waving your dirty sock in your face while you try to pound out some sentences, to your crumbling relationship with the person you thought you were in love with, etc.) is a gift because once you recognize it, you can learn how to rail against it with a resistant war cry: you learn to charge right through that shit and get shit done.

It’s all a gift.  Everything in your life could potentially make you a better writer.  This is why, for Revise the Novel Month, I’m going to start with gratitude and get to work.

Recommended Reading: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell