Greetings, dear wordsmiths. I hope you are all successfully navigating your circumstances and being sustained by your writing lives.
Sometimes, however, the creative energy flags, and/or we doubt the value of our efforts. Here are some things to remind ourselves of, when that happens.
Recently I came across – and now can’t find it again to reproduce it exactly – a quote from Basho, the great haiku master, saying (something to the effect) that if a poet manages to write only one good poem, that is a successful life.
Knowing a little of how Basho and his colleagues went about it, that means one out of hundreds – even thousands! Yes, it's extreme, but I bet we can all remember back to a time when we were starting out, and dreamed of writing just one really good poem.
Note, he didn’t say anything about having to communicate the one good poem, or receive any kind of applause or reward for it. He also didn’t say it had to be a great poem, nor better than anyone else’s, nor even that it had to be the best you yourself would ever produce. (It probably would be the best you were capable of at the time of writing it, given that we don't intentionally write bad poems.)
All of which means we’re all already there, and have in fact exceeded the goal! I guess there must be people who write only bad poetry, but they are not among this community, all of whom continually produce good poems.
It must follow that the life of a storyteller who produces one good story has also been successful.
Currently I’m reading the very exciting ‘Magisterium’ books by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare: a fantasy series for children. (Don’t laugh; you all read Harry Potter didn’t you?) In an author interview at the end of the first volume they are asked what special advice they have for aspiring writers. They say (not new but worth being reminded of over and over again – because though we all know it, we also all slip):
There is a special mantra we writers use: BICHOK – Butt in chair. Hands on keyboard.
The special trick is to keep writing! Even when you don’t feel like it and you just want to hurl your laptop out of the window, just keep writing. Try to have fun with it too – writing can be very frustrating and draining at times, so it’s important not to lose the sense of excitement you felt when you first imagined the story coming together and the characters began to form in your mind.
This, I realise, could mean a daily habit of writing, a once-a-week appointment with one’s writer self, or whatever else suits – so long as it’s not a one-off or spasmodic thing. It’s the keeping on keeping on which works.
Yes, we all do have those times when we stop, of course. The thing is to pick ourselves up asap and get back to the regular habit. Well, we know that, don’t we? We keep turning up for our regular writing dates here.
And so we also know that this advice works just as well for creating poems as it does for telling stories. (Especially if there's coffee.)
What is your favourite tip for writers? How do you encourage yourselves?
Do please share this in the comments below!
Now I await your excellent poems and stories, old or new, on any topic. Prose pieces to be 369 words or fewer (excluding title). One submission each, please, and link to it on your blog in the Mister Linky below. We’d love it if, on your blog, you’d link back to us at this post, too.
This upcoming Wednesday Rommy will be asking us to write about either moths or butterflies (or both!).
Images free from Unsplash, by (in the order in which they appear above) Miguel Bruna, Fa Barboza and Sincerely Media.