My three favorite quotes about writing.
There is in each of us an upwelling spring of life, energy, love, whatever you like to call it. If a course is not cut for it, it turns the ground around it into a swamp. ~Mark Rutherford
I found this quote in the book WALKING ON ALLIGATORS, a book of meditations for writers, by Susan Shaunghnessy, which I bought back in 1993 when I first set my cap to being a writer instead of (or, in addition to, as it turned out) being a scientist. I've come back to this quote over and over, to explain to myself why I get depressed if my breaks from writing are too long. Ye olde swamp. Yes, exactly.
Tons of great quotes in that book - I highly recommend!
Take the donuts!
Okay, if you haven't read Amanda Palmer's THE ART OF ASKING, you won't get this. Also, this is an amazing book for any kind of creative. Maybe for anyone at all! Seriously, this book lit up my life and answered questions I didn't even know I had. Anyway, she explains this so much better than I could, that I'm copying from the book. Some of this might not make sense because she references previous thought threads, but that's all the more reason to read the book!
Thoreau wrote in painstaking detail about how he chose to remove himself from society to live by his own means in a little ten-by-fifteen-foot hand-hewn cabin on the side of a pond. What he left out of Walden, though, was the fact that the land he built on was borrowed from his wealthy neighbor, that his pal Ralph Waldo Emerson had him over for dinner all the time, and that every Sunday, Thoreau’s mother and sister brought him a basket of freshly baked goods for him, including donuts.
The idea of Thoreau gazing thoughtfully over the expanse of transcendental Walden Pond, a bluebird alighting onto his threadbare shoe, all the while eating donuts that his mom brought him just doesn’t jibe with most people’s picture of him as a self-reliant, noble, marrow-sucking back-to-the-woods folk hero. In the book An Underground Education, Richard Zacks declares: Let it be known that Nature Boy went home on weekends to raid the family cookie jar.
Thoreau also lived at Walden for a total of two or three years, but he condensed the book down to a single year, the four seasons, to make the book flow better, to work as a piece of art, and to best reflect his emotional experience.
Taking the donuts is hard for a lot of people.
It’s not the act of taking that’s so difficult, it’s more the fear of what other people are going to think when they see us slaving away at our manuscript about the pure transcendence of nature and the importance of self-reliance and simplicity. While munching on someone else’s donut.
Maybe it comes back to that same old issue: we just can’t see what we do as important enough to merit the help, the love. Try to picture getting angry at Einstein devouring a donut brought to him by his assistant while he sat slaving on the theory of relativity. Try to picture getting angry at Florence Nightingale for snacking on a donut while taking a break from tirelessly helping the sick. It’s difficult.
So, a plea.
To the artists, creators, scientists, nonprofit-runners, librarians, strange-thinkers, start-uppers, and inventors, to all people everywhere who are afraid to accept the help, in whatever form it’s appearing:
Please, take the donuts.
To the guy in my opening band who was too ashamed to go out into the crowd and accept money for his band:
Take the donuts.
To the girl who spent her twenties as a street performer and stripper living on less than $700 a month, who went on to marry a best-selling author whom she loves, unquestioningly, but even that massive love can’t break her unwillingness to accept his financial help, please…
Just take the fucking donuts.
And my most recent favorite, that I have tacked up next to my desk:
What would you write if you weren't afraid?
This one isn't cited to anyone that I can find. It's interesting because when I mention it to some people, they come right back with "I'm not afraid of anything!" Which is great. More power to them. Other people though, particularly well-established, multi-published authors, nod and say, "Oh, yes." It's not fear precisely, but that works well as a good umbrella term. It's caution. It's those voices of the marketplace whispering that something like it has been done. Or has never been done. It's the comments of critique partners warning that readers won't like something. It's the ever-present doubt in one's own instincts.
Whenever I hesitate on going somewhere in a story, I look a that quote.
And I write as if I'm not afraid.