I’ve aimed to focus these posts on the project How to Keep Writing with a Full Time Job but allow me a bit of a digression today for something that bears repeating. I used to give my creative writing students a handout on the first day to demonstrate the difference between a dilettante and writer — the basic idea is that a writer writes. I showed this to my upper division course this semester because I’m doing my ‘Writers in Motion’ course again.
This is the course that led to my Fulbright project, which looked at the status of writers in the digital age. The topic is films about writers. Yes, there are eleventy million of them, so it’s always a challenge to choose. We kicked off with Shakespeare in Love (you know how I love Stoppard) a fun film that really sets the tone for the other films that follow.
One of my favourite bits is the writing scene: there’s a whole ritual. Will spins the quill in his hand, spins around, turns his chair sideways and so on, to get in the mood. Like a ball player with a lucky pair of socks, he tries to capture the muse through repeating a ritual. He also looks for lovers to supply story lines (that end up ‘creating’ Romeo & Juliet and a little bit of Twelfth Night.
This is the message of most films about writers: go do writing-worthy stuff then write about it. Take lovers, do drugs, travel the globe, above all be dramatic and wild.
Many young writers or wannabe-writers try to do this. They try to live as fast and as furious as all the romantic depictions (often created by the writers themselves) suggest are crucial to the process. They think they have to out-drink Hemingway, out-Bowery Bukowski, out-depress Plath or out-do Sand in lovers.
Well, it’s not necessary. Trust me. You can live a boring life and still have plenty to say. Let writing be the world you want it to be. If you don’t want to take my word for it, how about Flannery O’Connor’s?
“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.”
You have the material: just write. Settle in, make your routine, and the muse will come to you. Write wild.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
~ Pablo Picasso