Yes, you read that right. Today, October 20th, is the National Day On Writing in the US, but I have taken the liberty of celebrating this special day on the other side of the Atlantic as well. After all, I am a writer, or I try to be one. I love writing, and in this blogpost I will attempt to articulate why, and also tell you about some writers who have said or written great things about writing. It’s all very meta, which, coincidentally, is one of my favorite kinds of writing.
Ernest Hemingway has given what is perhaps my favorite advice on writing ever:
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
— Ernest Hemingway
To me this is particularly true. If I don’t write I feel full to bursting with emotions and opinions and stories. I have to tap into the creative vein every once in a while, just to blow off steam. But there are also times that the flow of ideas seems to have dried up. Those days, I have to dig into myself deeply, sometimes so deeply that it hurts, and wait for liveliness to come back into my writing. Because that’s what writing is to me; it is the essence of life. And blood is also, in a much more literal way, the essence of life.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
— Sylvia Plath (The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath)
If you adapt the right mindset, everything is indeed ‘writeable about.’ It’s all a matter of perspective or, as we like to call it in the biz: point of view.
Writing is also a matter of endurance, as Elvis Costello so aptly points out in this beautiful love song.
“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
— Saul Bellow
What Saul Bellow says on writing is, in my experience, crap. You wake up at 3AM thinking you’ve conceived of the most innovative and groundbreaking literary concept of the 21st century, only to find out that your brilliant ideas don’t make a lot of sense in the harsh light of day.
Another piece of advice I’ve always taken very seriously is to ‘write what you know.’ In my case, that often means writing about mental illness and the experience of very small, day-to-day activities. It also means writing about loyalty and love and friendship and ambition. And here’s the thing: whatever you know is a unique combination. You don’t have to come up with something far-fetched and fantastical to capture attention, because the combination of information and experience stored in your mind is already so staggeringly beautiful and important.
“Who am I? I’m just a writer. I write things down. I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure, I sink the boat of love, but that comes later. And yes, I swallow glass, but that comes later.”
― Richard Siken
So now that I have, hopefully, shed some light on why I love writing, I’d like to leave you with a little assignment. Go write! I swear that no matter how much or how little experience you have in the field, putting pen to paper is a liberating experience. To me, it has a very therapeutic function as well. If you’re eager to start, but need a little bit more support, you could try NaNoWrimo or one of the related projects, such as Camp NaNoWriMo.
PS: In case you want to know more about this subject, I’ve listed some of my favorite books on writing below.
- Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
- On Writing by Stephen King
- How Fiction Works by James Wood
Most importantly: have a close look at your favorite books. Find out what their authors did to make you love the stories and connect with the characters so strongly.