I was driving down a hot blacktop street this week with three friends and we were talking about my book. The one that came out in April. And I was surprised to find myself telling them, “the thing about writing a book is that your life doesn’t really change that much.”
You are basically the same person you were before you wrote it. You’ve just learned a whole lot more about that person. And about the God who made that person. But your day-to-day life? It can look a lot the same. Quieter actually.
And you can start to have all these thoughts that snap at your heels, that worry you into wondering if somehow you didn’t do it right.
This writing thing.
And you wonder if it’s lame that you always seem to write about the same things, the same themes, the same storyline because it’s the one you live every Monday, Tuesday through discombobulated Sunday.
And is it failure not to be cutting edge?
To just be you, living in the skin of your same life.
And even though your good man and your trusted friends tell you that all that quiet you’re uncomfortably comfortable with whispers, “rest” and maybe you actually need one, still you wonder and worry and wake up feeling a slow undercurrent of sad that you don’t quite understand.
I’m thinking maybe you all have felt something like this at some point or another, eh? This pressure to matter, to engage, to write bigger or better or more or different.
It can drive a girl crazy.
And then. Then yesterday I read this on Facebook from well known author, Elizabeth Gilbert, and it’s like all the air whooshes out of me in relief and that big bag of worry rocks I’ve been lugging around rolls off my shoulders and I get the message. I get it. Finally.
“Dear Ones —
I was speaking to an artist friend the other day, who said she was having a crisis of creativity because she felt she was losing her edge. She feared that her work was not experimental, bold, and innovative enough. She quoted Ezra Pound (“Make it new”) and said she had stopped working because, simply put, she could not figure out any ways to make it new anymore.
I tried to explain to her that the opposite of The Edge is a simpler and older idea of The Craft. While the motto of modernity might indeed be “Make it new” the motto of the traditional craftsman/woman is more like, “Make it again and again and again and again and again, until you get better and better and better and better at it.” (A wordy motto, but you get the point.)
I gave up fighting for The Edge a long time ago, and that’s done me a world of good as an author. I don’t care about The Edge. Standing on the edges of things just gives me vertigo, anyway, and also carries with it a serious risk of toppling over that cliff and dying.
These days, instead, I just work toward honing my craft. I want to be the best and most prolific writer I can possibly be. I want to work every day, the way craftspeople have always worked. I don’t mind returning to the same themes and ideas, to try to craft them better next time. I don’t mind if my writing reminds readers of other authors (that’s called following in a tradition, or offering homage) and I don’t even mind if my new work reminds people of my earlier work. I’m not trying to ignite a revolution every time I sit down at my desk; I just want to pursue excellence.
To do that, I must get out of my own way (including getting out of the way of my ego) and simply do the work. As many times as it takes to get it right.
Do it every day. Do it as well as you can. Repeat, repeat, repeat. That’s craft.
That’s why we do Five Minute Friday, friends.
Now come link up your posts below – let’s keep working at our craft.