“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
I haven’t been writing very much lately.
Maybe I’m in a rut of sorts—a painfully deep repetition of nothingness—or perhaps I’m just all out of words. Either way, whatever I choose to call it, it’s not fun.
I have just come off a high of creativity not long ago, and so maybe this is the downfall: the higher we rise, the harder we fall, and right now I’m falling hard. But does that mean my days of flight are over? Does this crash to an unfamiliar low raise a white flag on my mind and all the things itching to be written?
Right now, it seems the answer is yes; however, I would like to have faith that this is only temporary.
Because it wasn’t too long ago that I declared to myself, writing is easy.
Now before you judge me for sounding like a gross little snob, please hear me out.
Writing is easy because, when it’s done sincerely and authentically, it requires little effort. As artistically cliché as it may sound, I’ve always found that my best work happens when I let it—not when I try to force it.
Personally, I can’t make myself write. I can’t set aside a certain amount of time each day dedicated to writing and only writing. I can’t make goals to promise myself “I will write this many articles this week” or “I will write about this or that.” It just doesn’t work for me, and even when I try to exert some effort in this way, I never feel comfortable with the words that happen as a result. It doesn’t feel like they are mine.
I don’t mean to sound too ballsy in making such an assumption, but I would bet that most writers have experienced at least one piece of their work—be it a book, article, blog post, anything—that seemed to simply come to them and spill out of their passionately beating hearts.
I would also bet that it quickly became one of their all-time favorite pieces, and it was likely received well by their readers.
That’s the mark of good work—when it comes from some otherworldly vibration inside, one that is so strong and clear that it can emanate nothing but authenticity and truth.
And isn’t that what we’re all seeking, at the end of the day?
I can only write naturally, organically. I can have a spark flying through my head at any given moment, and at that moment I write it down for memory, or if I can, I begin writing the full piece immediately. Everything—the inspiration, the topic, the voice and the structure—it all comes to me in a single creative burst. And so I write.
Given my tendency towards extremes in most aspects of my personality, this too is a blessing and a curse. It means that when I write, I do so without thinking about it, without even trying. The words literally fall out of me as though I am simply an agent of a higher source, which I truly believe is the case (and I believe that’s true for all of us through our different gifts).
However, it also means that sometimes, I go through awful dry spells of emptiness, floating through a void that can only be filled with the words that aren’t coming.
This is how I function as a writer: I’m either pumping out pieces of my heart or I’m mysteriously quiet. And when the quiet times come, I can’t do much about them, because the effort taints my voice in a way that makes it anything but my own. And to me, a voice that’s not my own certainly can’t be mine to express.
But as of today, I’ve decided that the dry spells are alright. I’ve decided that I’d rather be quiet than try to be anyone other than who I am.
So, this is me breaking the spell by writing about writing (go figure) to get a grip on this newfound clarity; writing is easy.
Writing is easy because when it’s pure and true, it just happens. It doesn’t rely on concerns of the ego, like choosing words and topics to achieve a certain amount of views and shares. That doesn’t work. And even if it seems like it does, that voice won’t last forever—insincerity has no truth in its foundations, and so its voice is fleeting.
So, if I were qualified to give any advice (which I’m totally not, but I’ll say this anyway), it would be this: stop trying.
Stop trying to make words, to make headlines, and just let them happen. There is nothing more apparent than reading a voice that’s trying too hard, and in all honesty, I find it quite off-putting. I don’t want to read something like that, so why would I want to write it?
Stop trying to write for the soothing of the ego and just write because you love it, because you must. As Elizabeth Gilbert said in a recent TED talk (yes, I’ve already referred to this talk in a previous article, and yes, I’m linking it again because it’s that good):
“…I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing, which is to say that I loved writing more than I loved my own ego, which is ultimately to say that I loved writing more than I loved myself.”
So, write because of those bursts of wonder that occur when least expected; even if being true means risking popularity, even if it means that the words just aren’t coming out, stay on that path. Wandering away from who we are as writers by putting out a convoluted voice strips us of the sincerity we (and our readers) have come to know and love as our truth, our authentic pieces of the journey we walk with our words.
But if we continue on that path, navigating all the dry spells and perceived successes alike, our words will reach those who need them. Perhaps when we view ourselves as merely the agents of these divine words and the messages in our hearts, we find that there really is nothing to writing after all.
And then, the words will come.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Brian Bisaillon