the literary life 11/12/09
I'm reading Arthur Miller's The Crucible with my juniors. It's such a fascinating read. I love historical plays. It's an entertaining way of learning about the past, and it appeals to the visual/movie side of my mind. The word crucible has multiple meanings; one synonym for crucible is "test" or trial." This makes me think of the hard work of writing, especially working on a long project. It's kind of like a test of one's patience and resolve. How to sustain the motivation?
While talent, creativity, and a willingness to take risks are important dimensions of the writing life, motivation is the distance between sifting through fragments and arriving at a successful whole. I've read several self-help books and articles on this topic. Some tips include breaking down one's goal into manageable parts, rewarding oneself for completing small tasks, and setting up a writing routine. However, one of my favorite tips, which I heard in a writing seminar, is to love what you write. What a great thing to remember! I mean, when I write stories or create narrators for poems, I write them best when I love them. It's a different way of thinking about one's characters and fictional creations: they are people who deserve our compassion and respect--even if we write memoir. And if we choose to dive into a relationship with our characters, we want to nurture this relationship. So when we think, what I'm writing is a load of crap, or, I'm sick of writing this, we can think about our project from the point of view of just loving the process of invention itself.
This is not to say that our critic doesn't have an important function. However, when we're on to something we care(d) about, but struggle with sustaining the high-level motivation to see it through, we can reconnect with our heart center and write from the place below all the negativity and stress and exhaustion. If you're having trouble sustaining motivation, why not do something that helps you connect with your heart center? For me, the cure is often two hours of reading. I like to lie in bed and read fifty pages of a novel, then pick up a book of poems and read a few out loud. Books are great motivators. Just by virtue of their existence, they represent hope. When I read them, I connect with my 18-year old self, the part of me that read with wonder, with lust: the one that said, I love how Fowles described that sunset there...I want to give this writing thing a try.