Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Writing Life

Last week, I spoke to a class of first grade students about the job of a writer. Preparing for my presentation really made me reflect on what this writing life is all about. I told them that to be a good writer, you need to love books and you need to love telling stories. I told them that the good part is that you can work in your pajamas, and the bad part is that you work by yourself (which can be hard if you are not a self-motivator). The best part, I told them, is that there are no rules. You have complete freedom. And your work is totally unique because it comes from your heart. The students asked a lot of questions, everything from how cover artwork is designed to how you sell your story. But the best question was asked by the teacher. What do you do when you get stuck? Her question caused me to think about my own struggles with writing. Sometimes, I think you have to just push through, force yourself to move forward even if it is difficult. Like a river bending around a boulder but still flowing. It doesn't stop because it is blocked, it just finds another way. Other times, I think you need to step back. Reflect on the work you are creating. Why isn't it working for you? Why can't it flow around the rock? This is what I told the teacher and her students: sometimes, you need to have the courage to let go. And to move onto something else. I encouraged them to feel free to cross out words they didn't like, or to even start over. Because writing takes on a life of its own, and when you set aside one story, I believe it isn't abandoned. It lives on in the new work you create. Because every word you write only serves to enhance your craft. Some stories take time to evolve in your subconscious before they are ready to be born. You just have to wait until they are ready to be told. It takes courage to rewrite, and even more courage to start over. Most of all, it takes persistence. That is the key to a writer's life--never ever giving up.