Friday, November 5, 2010

some thoughts on writing

At present, I'm writing a little review of Eat Pray Love, the movie, which should be up in a week or so. In the meantime, I was perusing Elizabeth Gilbert's website for some research material and came across "Some Thoughts on Writing" - Liz's sage advice for aspiring writers, which I think would also apply (at least partially) to bloggers, artists, and perhaps anybody striving to achieve what seems like a far-off dream...

... I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

... I created my own post-graduate writing program, which entailed several years spent traveling around the country and world, taking jobs at bars and restaurants and ranches, listening to how people spoke, collecting experiences and writing constantly. My life probably looked disordered to observers (not that anyone was observing it that closely) but my travels were a very deliberate effort to learn as much as I could about life, expressly so that I could write about it.

... Send your work off to editors and agents as much as possible, show it to your neighbors, plaster it on the walls of the bus stops – just don’t sit on your work and suffocate it. At least try. And when the powers-that-be send you back your manuscript (and they will), take a deep breath and try again. I often hear people say, “I’m not good enough yet to be published.” That’s quite possible. Probable, even. All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.

... As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness... Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). 

...  Always, at the end of the day, the important thing is only and always that: Get back to work. This is a path for the courageous and the faithful. You must find another reason to work, other than the desire for success or recognition. It must come from another place.

... Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where – if you missed it by age 19 – you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world – at any age. At least try.

... Everyone I know who managed to become a writer did it differently – sometimes radically differently. Try all the ways, I guess. Becoming a published writer is sort of like trying to find a cheap apartment in New York City: it’s impossible. And yet…every single day, somebody manages to find a cheap apartment in New York City. I can’t tell you how to do it. I’m still not even entirely sure how I did it. I can only tell you – through my own example – that it can be done. I once found a cheap apartment in Manhattan. And I also became a writer.

... My suggestion is that you start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results. Cast out your will, and then cut the line. 

... If you decide to write, then you must do it, as Balzac said, “like a miner buried under a fallen roof.” Become a knight, a force of diligence and faith. I don’t know how else to do it except that way. As the great poet Jack Gilbert said once to young writer, when she asked him for advice about her own poems: “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say YES." 

To sum it up, I would say that Liz's advice amounts to...
... Write
... Live and breathe writing
... Travel
... Share your writing
... Forgive yourself
... Get back to work
... At least try

And most importantly...
... Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest... start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results. Cast out your will, and then cut the line.

I think I can handle that.

(Picture via partytights)


Anonymous said...

I love this!!
And eagerly awaiting your eat, pray, love review - I still have not seen the film!

Laura Valerie said...

Thank you Belle! I'm still working on the review... it will be up soon :) I loved it, except for a couple of things... xx

Kimberley said...

The bit that I loved most was the un-authentic casting of Liz's first husband...

Corrine/Frock And Roll said...

I love this - thank-you so much for sharing it, Laura!

Anonymous said...

It's a more forgiving attitude towards writing which I actually love...just write, because you really do lose time fussing over things, time that could be spent writing your heart out...Love, Jules

Laura Valerie said...

Kimberley - I'll come to that in the review!

Corrine and Jules - I'm so glad you found Liz's words helpful. I think I am in love with her.

Anonymous said...

This should be my bible! Thank you so much for sharing this - I found it really inspirational.

Laura Valerie said...

My pleasure lovely! xx