Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"So You Want To Be A Writer?"

One would think that after a week-long intensive writing camp, I would be posting every day. Or at least writing every day. But I am ashamed to admit...I am not. Leaving camp, I had this grand idea that I would sit down and write every day. I made a document called "Writing Exercises," where, for three consecutive days, I gave myself a prompt and free-wrote, non-stop for five to ten minutes. Five minutes a day...how hard can that be?

Mind you, I said three consecutive days, meaning that after the third day I skipped two, then remembered and went back to it, then skipped another. It's not that I don't want to write. It's certainly not that I don't have anything to write about. In fact, I have too much to write about, between all the inspiration from camp and Les Mis rehearsals and work and the beach. I think a big problem is that I don't know what to choose. I have all these scattered snippets in random documents and on scrap pieces of paper and notebooks and sticky notes on my desktop. They are all just seeds floating in the wind, waiting for someone to grab them and plant them in the ground. Unfortunately there is only one of me, and I have a history of being slightly indecisive.

But that doesn't explain why I can't sit down for five minutes to just "dump write." And I think it's because I haven't made it part of my routine yet. At camp, it was amazing to have it naturally built into my daily routine. I don't have that at home. I don't have class to go to or an assignment to complete. I only have my own self-motivation, and let's face it, it's a lot easier to say "no" to yourself than it is to someone else.

So does that mean I'm not a writer? Does that mean I'm not "serious enough" to be one? I would like to think that I still am a writer, because I am always thinking about writing. I think about writing when I read and analyze other people's work. I think about writing when I'm onstage, and I think about the words I am saying, and I ask myself, "Why did the author choose these specific words? What do they convey about my character?" I think about writing when I see a little crab stand on his hind legs and pinch the air while I squat to meet him eye to eye, and I think, "What would he be saying right now if he could talk?" And for whatever reason, all I can imagine is an angry, swearing foreigner.

I believe I am a writer because I am always noticing. I don't think the true gift of a writer is how they use words; I believe it is the things they choose to bring to light: the dead fox on the side of the road, the bruised apple, the ripped flag...all the things others may not blink twice over. I believe the true gift of a writer is his/her ability to make the ordinary, extraordinary.

The title of this post is inspired by a poem my friend shared with me, called "So You Want To Be A Writer" by Charles Bukowski. Bukowski begins his poem with the following lines:

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.

Although these moments may not happen all the time, I have experienced the moments when it does come bursting out of me, like those times before bed when I turn my light off and on four times as I think of another note to jot down in my notebook.

He later writes:

unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.

And this is why I know I am a writer, because I love to share what I notice. I know I am a writer because I love to share things with you on this blog.

The majority of Bukowski's poem highlights the passion you must have if you want to be a writer. I agreed with most of Bukowski's points, except for the following lines:

if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.

Writing is hard work and I don't think any published author could say that there are never days when they don't want to write. I think the same is true of any profession.

I guess the underlying message of this long ramble is that, no matter what profession you are interested in, there will always be days when you don't want to do it. There will be periods in your life when you aren't able to do it as much as you like. You will always meet people who practice more than you do and do whatever it is, better than you do––believe me, I learned from camp. No matter if you lose touch with it at some point, know that, if you truly are meant to be in that profession, you will always return. That is when you will know you have passion. And that is when you will know that you have what it takes.

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