Do you take care of yourself? It’s important no matter who you are or what you do, but it’s also important for the writing itself. Your writing will do better if you the writer get enough sleep, some exercise, some snuggles or hugs, and time to daydream and ‘refill the well’ as Julia Cameron put it. I’m housesitting for a couple of artists and it’s a treat to be surrounded by art. I don’t take enough time out to go to plays, concerts, museums, galleries, readings, get a massage, etc.
Two other authors are talking about very different things, but both tie into this. First, Steven Pressfield has a great piece about some of his hardest years when he was learning how to write and the results were less than impressive:
Was I doing good work? Hell no. Everything I wrote was crap, and mainly I didn’t write at all. I had nothing to say. I had no point of view. I knew nothing and thought nothing. But still I was desperately driven. I’d work, save money, take a year or two and write a book. I say “book” but they weren’t books; when friends would read them, the look on their faces was excruciating. They were mortified.
Any of that familiar? Read the whole thing and save it for the hard days and those days will come. Will say, my closest friends had better poker faces! I also didn’t show anyone my earliest work until a guy at college asked to see a paper with the remark, “If you won’t let me read it, how will I ever get to know you?” (note: I was also painfully shy and so didn’t talk much). He said it with such kindness and genuine curiosity, I handed it over. Can’t say enough about kindness in this process. Anyway, even if you approach is steadier, it is usually a long hard slog to get your writing where you want it, where the reader enters the ‘fictive dream,’ and that takes us to Aaron Gansky’s latest on how to do that. I’m right there with him – when I read a book or watch a movie, I want to slip away into another reality. Creating that? A bit harder than receiving it:
As a writer, your job is to create a world that is tangible, experiential, and then hide yourself among the bushes so those who walk through the world cannot see you, cannot hear you. There’s nothing worse than a hyper self-aware writer….
Most are subtle traps we fall into, namely melodrama and over-writing. This is why subtlety is so important; it removes the writer from the forefront of the reader’s mind.
Read the rest for the ‘how to.’
Routine can be a great friend in getting past blocks and getting the writing done. Take care of yourself, establish a healthy routine. Which reminds me, there is that long association of writers and drinking/drugging. It’s possible to be creative, but it’s not necessary to the process (no matter what excuses you make for it- it’s not) and it shortens your career dramatically. Novelists can work all their lives, but add drugs and/or alcohol to the mix and you’ve got maybe 10 good years.
Do something nice for yourself today. And write something amazing. Keep going.
Murakami’s cool benefits from an un-nerdy background running a jazz club in his 20s, and his equally un-nerdy Ironman routine. As he detailed recently in his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami rises at 4am on most mornings, writes until noon, spends the afternoon training for marathons and browsing through old record stores and turns in, with his wife, at 9pm. As a regime, it is almost as famous as his novels and has the clean, fanatical air of a correction to the mess of his 20s. It is also the kind of discipline necessary to crank out 1,000 complicated pages in three years.
To Murakami, built like a little bull, it’s a question of strength. “It’s physical. If you keep on writing for three years, every day, you should be strong. Of course you have to be strong mentally, also. But in the first place you have to be strong physically. That is a very important thing. Physically and mentally you have to be strong.”
His habit of repetition, whether a stylistic tic or a side-effect of translation from the Japanese, has the effect of making everything Murakami says sound infinitely profound. He has written about the metaphorical importance of his running; that to complete an action every day sets a kind of karmic example for his writing. “Yes,” he says. “Mmmmm.” He makes a long contemplative sound. “I need strength because I have to open the door.” He mimes heaving open a door. “Every day I go to my study and sit at my desk and put the computer on. At that moment, I have to open the door. It’s a big, heavy door. You have to go into the Other Room. Metaphorically, of course. And you have to come back to this side of the room. And you have to shut the door. So it’s literally physical strength to open and shut the door. So if I lose that strength, I cannot write a novel any more. I can write some short stories, but not a novel.”
Is there an element of fear to overcome in those actions every morning?
“It’s just routine,” he says and laughs loudly. “It’s kind of boring. It’s a routine. But the routine is so important.”
The whole thing is worth reading.