Here’s the thing about artists — their job is to fall in love for a living. Like, you could commission me to go write a historical fiction, a historical musical. If I’m not in love with it and I don’t know how to get myself into the characters, you’re going to be bored to tears by whatever the fuck I write. You can’t assign falling in love.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, The Atlantic, “How Lin-Manuel Miranda Shapes History” (boldface mine)
AMEN. I have been wrestling with this my whole adult writing life.
I didn’t have to be in love with networking computers. Being intrigued was a major plus, but love was never in the cards there. Desktop publishing had an even lower threshold — ‘mildly pleased’ translated into eight years of satisfactory work.
But showing up for writing by writing a poem every day? That is, doing what Real Writers purportedly do? Eight-year-olds trapped in desks right before recess are not as squirmy and bitter as I. Nor do they set their work on fire. (Probably only because they don’t have access to matches… but I digress.)
Somehow, writing a poem for the sake of placing words in order, on schedule, is one of the most tortuous, painful things I can contemplate or attempt. I feel like such a prima donna.
I’m an academic at heart. I learn by reading. And I have read a LOT of material about best practices for being a writer since my Hollinsummer writing program in 1982. Most of that material says, “Write every day.” Some of it says that the what-you-write aspect isn’t important… which made me feel better until I started filling three sheets of paper with “write a word” while doing Morning Pages. Evidently I can bore myself with my own stream of consciousness in addition to annoying myself with worthless poetry.
Even odder? I have no qualms about writing exercises when I’m in a seminar or class. I’m happy to sit down and hammer away, and I don’t care how they come out. Turning to exercises when I’m on my own has been vastly less successful.
I wish I had found my magic key already. Contemplating a life of writing is daunting enough under the traditional craftsperson model without the burden of reliable inspiration. (Is that even a thing?)
How about contemplating a life of falling in love?
Why the heck not.