When the writing is hard, and nothing is flowing, and I’m tired down to my fingernails, so tired that I can barely make a sensible thought much less translate a thought into a beautiful sentence, it seems so much easier and much more fun to check and see what kind of pictures my friends have posted of their vacations and their babies. Maybe I’ll see if my favorite store is having a sale. Then I will check a few other stores just for good measure. These are also the times that I wonder what that actress from that one show has been in before, or it might drift across my mind that I always meant to buy that album by that band that was hip back when I was pregnant.
It seems kind to give myself those distractions. I encourage myself – “You’ve worked hard, you’re tired,” I say – and forgive any guilt as I turn off my mind and indulge in mindless browsing of materials and information.
But it’s not kind. There are so many challenges to my writing, so many obligations and projects vying for the moments of my day. What business do I have squandering the precious few moments that I have set aside for my work?
I recently heard an interview with Walter Dean Myers, replayed this summer in commemoration of his life, and every syllable he spoke in his rich, deep voice was full of love for his work. Hearing him speak was inspiring, and reminded me of why I want to write.
Laurie Halse Anderson writes on her blog, “If you don’t write, you will one day die. If you write, you’re still going to die, but you will have disturbed the universe in the best possible way. You will have explored your heart more fully. You will leave behind your stories. The ripples of your creativity will touch countless lives and butterflies will sing your praises.” I’ve had that quote on my desktop for a long, long time.
I say it to myself something like this: Do you want them to say of you that you could find a really great bargain? Do you want your legacy to be that you always knew the latest gossip, could recognize celebrities with accuracy?
Because, I continue, I think you want it to be about the work. I think you want it to be about the words on the page and the magic of making the fiction so true that it becomes real. And, if you want that, which I think you do, there is only one answer when the work is hard, and turning away would be the easier option. You must breathe and go on.
I mean, duh.
Also, anyone seeking inspiration for a creative life, have you seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk about creativity? Watch. Be inspired.