I’ve never experienced writer’s block. I have sat down to write and only lousy writing came out. I’ve sat down at a piano and tried to put two lines together that flowed and gave the feels only to leave frustrated and regretful that I ever read Dr. Seuss. But I’ve never really experienced that sensation of, there’s nothing there.
I suppose that my real writer friends would laugh and think, “Oh grasshopper, just you wait.” And my non-writer friends might think, “Well no, there’s always something to say. Just talk about your week. Anybody can talk about their week. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a great book idea that I’m about to start writing.”
I’ve had a handful of people over the last year tell me that they were going to write a book. Asked me for some tips. Apparently the expert bar has been set very low.
Several years ago I contacted a teacher at our local liberal arts university and asked for a meeting. “I’d like to write a book.” She was so kind, gracious, and I’m sure had heard it a hundred times. Two years before that I told a brand new friend of mine that I had just met in Canon Beach, OR the same thing. She was accomplished, published, and connected. “I’d like to write a book.” Same look my college professor would mimic two years later. It’s that look of grace and realism. I imagine that every once in awhile someone actually says that, writes a book, and it’s good. So, there’s this fraction of a percentage of a chance that real writers have to oblige because someone did it for them.
The other day I stumbled upon an article for accomplished people. Multitaskers, career go-getters, power-users, ladder-climbers. The article gave advice about how to fly at a high altitude in your career and life. “Set a five year goal and then crush it in 6-months.” Crush it.
I really do want to write a book.
The first time that I seriously said it, thought it, meant it, was over five years ago. I began to call around to some of my old High School English teachers and ask if they knew anyone who could tutor me in creative writing. It was my subtle hint for that teacher to offer. None did, so I asked point blank, “Any chance that you would be interested in helping me?” I got all No’s. Quick no’s at that. Which some might think surprising because of my gift for persuasion. I’ve talked my brothers into dozens of things that were counter-intuitive to common sense. Nope, all no’s.
Undiscouraged, I called the local university and begged into my first writing classes. Three in all. Three semesters of beginning a discipline from scratch. It was beyond beneficial for me. Maybe most importantly, I realized that I had a million miles to go to write well. That first assignment was terrifying. The second, not much easier. But I kept turning in assignments. I began to read “How to” books on writing and systematically apply what I was learning. And I started reading better books. Almost to the point of snobbery. Pulp Fiction wasn’t good enough anymore. I had to read stories with depth, and arc, and characters- but not just one dimensional characters- I needed broken heroes and misunderstood villains. Genre didn’t matter anymore- I wanted guts and brains and stories- masterful stories. The cheap sentimentality and lazy melodrama stuck out for the bad writing that it was. I wanted the feels and I wanted the author to earn every bit of it.
Writing became work. But not working for the man, punching the clock, everybody’s working for the weekend, daily grind kind of work. It became pre-sin Adam and Eve work. Remember the curse was that what mankind would do for industry would be a struggle- laborious and toiling. Before all of the talking snake stuff, Adam and Eve worked and were fulfilled in their effort. They felt satisfied, content, accomplished. And writing is becoming that for me. I’m starting to discover my voice. Noticing areas of growth and challenge. And most importantly, enjoying the process.
Steven King says that writing is less about creating anything and more about excavating. Writers, artists for that matter, aren’t so much creators as they are archaeologists. That story, song, painting doesn’t need to be invented, it needs to be discovered- hiding down in the depths of the soul. Longing to express. And it’s that process that has been so satisfying to me. I sit down with little to no agenda and finish with a reflection that expresses a truth that I hold. Hard truths, easy truths, but all truths.
I really do want to write a book. And today I declare a five year goal. In all, that’ll make ten. Ten years of purposed, intentional education and training. Ten years of discipline and pen to paper. But here’s the thing. I have no need to crush it. There’s nothing about finishing in six months that appeals to me. This process, this journey, has been too fun and challenging to rush. The writer I was five years ago is far less talented than the writer I am today. And I can only assume that the writer I am five years from now is more skilled as well. There are no shortcuts to growth, only short-circuits. If you’ll stick with me here for awhile, we’ll just grow together. Who knows, maybe five years from now I will have discovered that story that’s down in there screaming to get out, dying to be read and heard and felt. And the last thing that I’d ever want to do to it, is crush it.