“By the same token, the amateur—that is, lover of—the game does not suppose that because he can catch felt on catgut three returns out of five, he is just a lucky break away from Wimbledon. He does it for the doing. Because although it’s hard to get revved up for it, once you start the momentum carries you; because you get better when you work at it; because the effort makes you sweat and it feels good to have done it. I think we ought to think of writing more like that.” -Janet Burroway
This is just one of the best metaphors I have read about writing so far. I used to just read the novels that I like and think that it will teach me the techniques. All those years, I think I have been doing it all wrong, because professional novelists are good at making their craft appear easy and seamless; you will not know the extent of the mechanical labor required behind the scenes to make it happen. I had the desire but I was looking in the wrong places.
And since July is the month for showing Papertowns the John Green movie, I am throwing in another quotable quote from Green that supplements this mindset from Burroway. “Each story is written by a person who is inescapably themselves and for me the process of writing is about trying to escape that self, trying to inhabit a different world, trying to get out of that prison of consciousness that we’re still stuck in for the whole time that we’re here.”
I have been writing since I was a little girl. Strictly speaking, I have been keeping a diary for the last 21 years and I still have one at home, offline and only available for my husband’s (and doctor’s) eyes. My only regret is that I did not get to keep some of my sloppy childhood writing, although I highly doubt that there’s much good in re-reading how I felt paralyzed at P.E. class after seeing my crush.
I have been writing for 21 years and I am still an amateur to many genres I want to explore. Instead of feeling feverish and impatient (like I did for the last 5 years), I decided to step back and change my approach. I decided to be more kind to myself, writing-wise. I loosened up my expectations and let the words flow.
Success stories in writing are anomalies. Usually, the aspiring writers do not have much and they have to take supplementary or odd jobs to get by. The real aspiring writers get depressed and they hit rough patches and they keep constructing pieces until they hit pay dirt.
When I was working as assistant editor for a publishing house, they were so careful about throwing around the word “writer,” giving it the sacredness that it deserves. And I laud those people for being like that because it helped me to set high standards on who is a writer and who is a “writer.”
For my own self-assessment, I was not good enough for the authentic writer title even though I write FEVERISHLY, OFTEN, and EVERYWHERE. 🙂 But like what that Burroway quote states, no one gets laughed at for not being a writing legend. We don’t get shot in monuments for loving writing for writing’s sake and producing content to express that love.
Sometimes, I get lucky that people like what I write in different places. However, I realized this: other people liking what I write is a mere bonus to the gift of writing, which is writing itself. There are pieces that I write for certain purposes.
But there is this writing that is like a virgin forest, unsullied to what others think and stashed away in my drawer for mental safekeeping. I use ink and paper for that, as I have always done when I was a little girl. I used to have a typewriter to play with before the age of computers and I cannot recall the numerous attempts to try a manuscript but I always ended up throwing it away after the first chapter.
Well, I am turning thirty now so I spend less time throwing my time and my creations around. And who knows, maybe the next chapter 1 will have a chapter 10 to it… I am just full of optimism. And if I fail to earn the title real writer in this lifetime, I died happy because I did what I loved the most, that thing which I will continue doing even if nobody paid or asked me to do. 🙂