I’ve always argued that to write creatively, you shouldn’t force yourself to follow any prescribed daily habits to be successful because it’s an art. Like sex, it should happen during the throes of passion, otherwise you’ll just be despondently participating while thinking about what to eat or how much laundry you have to do later.
I once studied a text about the writing process in which the author describes the process as a supernatural phenomenon very much outside of their control. They describe working in the middle of a field when an idea for a story or poem smacks into them as if it was carried to them by the wind. The author would dash home in a furious panic because if they didn’t make it to a pen and paper in time, that the story would blow away and be gone forever. I loved that idea. It’s much more romantic than Hemingway sitting at his typewriter bleeding his guts out.
However, I’ve begun to wonder if I was wrong.
In fact, I am now so certain that writing when I’m only in a fit of creative passion is a poor strategy that I’m forcing myself to write this blog right now. All I really want to be doing is playing my ukulele. Have I achieved manic pixie dream girl status yet?
I’ve been trying to learn how to sing lately to accompany my new instrument, and singing is one of those things that I thought you could either do or not. I assumed I was the latter despite friends telling me otherwise when I drunkenly serenaded them. My response was usually to intentionally screech whatever I was singing (very likely Don’t Stop Believing by Journey) so that they would have no false illusions about my talentlessness.
I’m trying to learn how to sing now because the Youtuber I’ve been fangirling over lately, Jonathan Young, changed my perspective on whether people are gifted with talent or not. He has without a doubt the sexiest singing voice I’ve ever heard (hence my obsession). And in high school people told him that he sucked at singing. I know. What?!
In a couple of his videos, he adamantly argues against people who say that they wish they could sing because he’s proof that you can do it if you work hard at it. Like learning an instrument, it’s all about practice. He wouldn’t have the ability to drop women’s pants with his voice now had he not practiced (I mean, I don’t know if he actually has that ability, but I’m pretty certain he does).
I feel that it’s the same way with writing when you’re uninspired. The more you practice at it, the easier it will become. Hopefully. I mean, only writing when inspired is a life long philosophy I’ve held, and this is the first time I’ve forced myself to write when I didn’t want to in a while. It’s felt like pulling teeth. But here I am, at the end of the blog post. We did it, guys!
Of course some people will always be more naturally talented than others. But I would rather be someone who works hard to achieve a mediocre level of competency than someone who doesn’t earn their rewards.
Perhaps Hemingway meant that he was bleeding his guts out at his typewriter not just as a metaphor for baring his soul in his writing, but also the suffering that comes with forcing yourself to write as well.