I felt pretty good, actually. When you’re still too young to shave, optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.
By the time I was fourteen (and shaving twice a week whether I needed to or not) the nail on my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing. By the time I was sixteen I’d begun to get rejection slips with hand-written notes a little more encouraging than the advice to stop using staples and start using paperclips.
I also employed the world-famous Hemingway Defense. Although never clearly articulated (it would not be manly to do so), the Hemingway Defense goes something like this: as a writer, I am a very sensitive fellow, but I am also a man, and real men don’t give in to their sensitivities. Only sissy-men do that. Therefore I drink. How else can I face the existential horror of it all and continue to work? Besides, come on, I can handle it. A real man always can.
It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.
you must not come lightly to the blank page.
Someone out there is now accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.
No one can be as intellectually slothful as a really smart person; give smart people half a chance and they will ship their oars and drift…dozing to Byzantium, you might say.
There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish the apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.
Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books – of course! But so are the theatre lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone’s favorite, the john.
Good description is a learned skill
The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only go better.
My review of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska @vkphotospace.com