03 August, 2012

"Write Every Day" Part Two, "Without Hope and Without Despair"

"Write a little every day, without hope and without despair," wrote Karen Blixen.

I still think the amendment mentioned two posts ago is important, so let's quickly qualify:  ("...a little...," wrote Karen Blixen)--smeg that.  Write all you want.  Ms Blixen was just using those words to make the process sound gentle and easy, and it's a great quote.  I and a vast community of authors owe her respect and a debt of gratitude. 

The thing is, it isn't gentle or easy.  You might have a job, a family, an abusive partner, a heroin addiction, whatever.  You might want the dream so much that it hurts to think about what you could have, should have been.  Maybe you're just afraid of trying and failing.

For the people who let other obligations (or drug addictions) get in the way, the answer is simple:  don't.  If you're serious, why are you letting other things get in your way?  I'm not saying it's easy.  Starting is the hardest part, but fortunately your answer remains simple:  start.

For the rest of you, it's complex.  Wanting something badly enough to get off your duff and start is Step One.  If you truly put your all into the fight, then you just might even make it, but it won't be an easy road.  There will be times you fail, times you succeed, and both of them can lead to hurt, and hurt slows you down.

When Scott Bradfield first quoted Karen Blixen to me, I didn't agree.  It's important, I still believe, to let yourself be emotional when trying to be creative.   Emotion fuels creativity, deepens your connection with others (the perceiver as well as those who inspire you) which is vital for any art, and it's part of writing with your whole self.  

I took years to understand what Karen Blixen meant by those final words:  the wrong kind of hope only leads to despair.   It is destructive emotionally and counterproductive professionally to place all your self-worth on every story you finish or submit to a magazine.  It's far better to channel that  energy.  Wanting something badly enough to cry tears of joy every time you make a step towards your goal is great, but hope must be channelled into those steps, and what was despair becomes only a sense of responsibility, a reminder to truly strive your hardest.  

This is a tough spiritual exercise, but like most good writing advice, it boils down into a simple principle:  work with heart and mind.  Beginning is the hardest part.  Have you already begun?  Good.  Keep working and don't let anything, including yourself, get in your way.

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