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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Why the Heck to Writers Persist?

photo (c) Dawn Meredith
If you're married to a writer, living with a writer or related to one you may well have asked this question at regular intervals, especially when the writer in question is in a hole, that black night of indeterminate length we call a crisis of confidence. I believe true writers write because they can't not do it. It's a compulsion. A weird one, I know, seeing as it can lead to misery and angst, but I tell you non-writers this, when your work is accepted, it sounds pathetic to say it, but you feel like you are accepted, that what you burned to say to the world is not only being heard, but being valued by someone. Let's take a peek inside the writer's head for a moment.
Writers are observers. We process every tiny little thing that goes on around us. We're worried we'll miss something important. (That's why there's so little room for other more mundane things. Or am I the only person who forgets to buy milk?) We constantly compare what we see and feel with other things we have experienced and new ideas pop up, wonderful new ideas which we yearn to develop. It's a bit like waiting for a flower to open. You know there is beauty and wonder inside and you can't wait to see it. In a sense we're gardeners too. We watch the ideas flower inside our head and our notebooks and on our computers and we seek to nurture them, water them until they emerge as fully formed things. There is pride in that process. There is also fear and wonder and delight. All the while we are battling against the inner critic, the overzealous editor in our head who likes to tell us what we have to say is rubbish and that no one will listen, that we have SUCH a  long way to go yet. This is why we falter. We know that publishers will send rejection letters and we know that we have to have a thick skin, but it still hurts. We can comfort ourselves with the thought that its all part of the apprenticeship, the journey to greatness, and that constructive feedback helps us grow, forces us to change and adapt. But it still hurts.
The industry is finicky, subjective and prone to the whimsy of Lady Luck, but just because someone criticises our well-crafted masterpiece doesn't mean it's worthless. It just means it hasn't found a home. And let us not forget the elation and joy that comes from the process of writing, of dipping into that delicious river of inspiration.
I leave you with these thoughts, emerging from the maelstrom that is my consciousness in the wee hours one morning:
Writing is an addiction 
to pain and glorious triumph, 
shattering defeat,
self-loathing and bliss.
It revels in my suffering.
It pierces me with joy.
cheers, Dawn

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