Writers on Writing

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If the writers I’ve been listening to lately are right, then I’m not really a writer.

The other day I saw an excellent movie titled The Wife, starring Glenn Close as the wife of a Nobel Prize-winning novelist. During the course of the movie, the idea is reiterated that writers must write – that’s it’s excruciating and horrible but that it’s almost an uncontrollable compulsion.

Author Judy Blume said much the same thing last Wednesday at the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards dinner, where she was on hand to accept an honor for her body of work and to discuss the writing life with NPR host Scott Simon and fellow author Neil DeGrasse Tyson. During the conversation, Blume made the oft-repeated claim that writing was akin to breathing; she simply had to write in order to live.

I find this notion about writing to be a bit romantic. Writing is a decidedly tedious, unglamorous undertaking. Writer’s block and procrastination are almost as famous as the old saw that real writers need to write. For myself, it’s easy to let my other responsibilities and desires overshadow my urge to write. Maybe I just don’t want to admit to myself that I don’t have what it takes to be a real writer. But it seems to me that the way to determine if you’re a writer is simply to suck it up and write, no matter the exigency.

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield describes the Resistance that afflicts all artists, and he prescribes a simple antidote: Get up, go to the computer, and write. Do it every day and don’t stew over every word as it leaves your mind and hits the screen. Thumb your nose at Resistance and get on with it.

For over four years, I have been faithfully writing a minimum of two blog posts per week. I have maintained this regimen no matter what the circumstances, whether sick or well, traveling or at home. It might not be much, but it tells me that I have some sense of the discipline involved in being a writer.

Do I need to write? No. But I acknowledge the reality. If one is to be a writer, one must write. End of story.

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Happy Anniversary

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A year ago today, I began this blog. Filled with excitement and determination, I declared to the blogosphere my decision to pursue my writing. Every week for the past year, I have written at least two blog posts, and as I have gotten used to that minor discipline, I have found it much easier to put my thoughts in writing.

I also began writing once a month for my hometown newspaper The Hinsdalean. Having come up with all kinds of ideas for blog posts has made it easy to find subjects for my column as well.

There have been failures and frustrations. One is that I have fallen off from daily work on my memoir. Doubt has crept into the process, and I feel certain what I have written is nothing but garbage. Today is a good day to recommit to the process. If you are a writer, I highly recommend Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. I think it might be time for me to revisit that wise book of advice for artists.

The one thing I am proudest of, however, is that I have ventured out into the public sphere with my own beliefs and opinions. I have tried to be as authentically me as I can be. If that is one of the goals of life, then I am on my way.

Thank you, readers, for taking the time to hear me out. I love getting comments, both here and on Facebook. And I look forward to sharing a part of myself with you in the year to come.