Monday, August 15, 2011

The Great Heroic Writer

I recently vacationed at the Oregon coast. One of the adult evening discussions briefly centered on the act of writing. I have a dear friend who fancies herself a writer but hates the act of writing. Believe it or not, I understand that completely. Sometimes creativity is hampered by the act of creating.

I had another brief discussion last week, this one online and with someone else; someone who believes they have a great idea for a novel—though it would be their first—and they wanted to run the idea by me. Mainly, though, they were asking me a direct question about how to get started. I told this person, “the great mysterious secret of how a writer starts a book is simply this: Just start.”

It’s the same basic problem in both cases, I think. Both of these writers have everything they need in order to begin to produce their art. They have the desire. Talent. Concept. Even a modicum of skill. All they’re lacking is the action of taking the first step in a direction. Quite frankly any direction will do. It takes many years to know that this is true from experience, but the journey is about the journey, not the destination.

If I have any hope for my fellow writers out there, it’s that they eventually, if they’re not now, become dauntless. It’s a difficult thing, to be sure, writing down in words what eventually becomes some kind of story. It doesn’t matter what kind of story it is, fiction or not. That’s not even the hard part. The hard part is opening up the heart, the place of origin for these stories, to the world at large. Every artist faces down the demon of Criticism at some point. It’s mostly an internal battle, that one. But it’s one worth winning.

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