Big Guys vs. Little Guys in the Creative Process


“So, tell me about your process,” might be the most ill-advised conversation starter for a fact-based, left-brain type to put to right-brain, artistic types. If the non-artist, with a tendency for left-brain thinking, unwittingly enters into such a conversation, they’ll know the mistake they’ve about halfway through the artist’s answer. The smart ones walk away. Would that be rude? Yes, but it might end the self-mutilation fantasies.

Failure is a fundamental part of the right-brain’s artistic and creative process, but it’s not a dead end sign. It’s an obstacle, a lane closure sign, or a road flare that’s been placed there by others as a result of their failure. Elite, professional athletes experience failure more often than they succeed, 90% of startup businesses fail in ten years, and financial risk takers fail more often than they succeed. One of the primary differences between failure in art, and these other areas, is that most people will never see the artists’ failures, and they won’t want to see them. Artistic failure often occurs on a flea-ridden couch inside a dilapidated trailer park, never to leave. The artistic process involves failed starts, bad ideas, and love, that no one, other than the other artist, can see, appreciate, or understand.

“How do I create a great works of art?” a left-brained, fact-oriented individual might ask. You create. Every artist is different of course, but in my experience, nothing beats experience. The true artist should spend significant time in the corner of their trailer park home creating.

Are right-brain, creative types creating great works of art? Yes we are, every single time we create. Our friends and family might try to convince us that the piece we’re currently working on is a pile of dung, but we won’t know that for some time, if ever. We suffer from delusional myopia. We might eventually be able to see that one piece is better than another one is, but that doesn’t decrease the love we have for the other pieces that no one will ever want to read. The trick to evolving from a writer to an artist involves knowing when to move on.   

Harsh critiques hurt. Every time a reader tells us the project we’ve spent months on (at the very least) is not what we thought it was, it damages our interior organs. We pour our heart and soul into these pieces, and most of them aren’t very good. The dividing line between writers and artists rises here. Writers who cannot handle harsh critiques should probably quit the current job they applied for, because it gave them more time to write, and choose a career. (A poor Quality Review report is much easier to fix than trying to fix the ones we love.) If, however, that stinging critique feeds the competitive juices to create more dung, better dung, and so much dung that they eventually have enough material to mix it with the other necessary ingredients required to make fertilizer, they might be able to one day create a flower.  

When a left-brain, non-artist asks an artist about their process, they only want to talk about the flowers. If they unwittingly pushes the conversation deeper, don’t feel sorry for them when they start screaming for someone to help them out of that deep, dark cavern lined with the artist’s failures. They asked the question.

“If we want to know the fundamental elements of a serial killer,” criminal psychologists suggest, “we study their initial crimes.” The same holds true for writers. If the conversation starter really wants to know the road map of the artistic path, they’ll let the artist talk about the initial, unpopular particulars of the process.   

In that deep dark cavern, we’ll find some pieces that might have some appeal, but we’ll find that the artist stubbornly sought some angle they considered original. The other angle involves a tired theme on historical figures that serves to further a reader’s adoration of the subject. When we decide to tackle an article on an historical figure, however, we search for a unique angle that we feel analyzes them in a manner few have before. Originality is almost impossible to achieve, but it should always be the goal. Even if we adore the figures, we prefer to analyze them in a critical manner. The theme of this critique is that if we criticize an accomplished individual, there is an inherent compliment in there that we considered them worthy of critique.

The difference between writers and artists is a subjective one, of course, and it is a complex argument, but it might be as simple writers report on Big Guys and artists find little guys doing little things more appealing. Most of the characters on this sight are so niche, that they have trouble finding a niche. When the brilliant Seinfeld hit the airwaves, numerous friends recommended the show to us. “You have got to watch this show. This show is so you that you might be ticked off that they stole your whole mindset.” When we finally broke down and watched the show, the effect was everything our friends thought it would be. We were almost depressed a couple of episodes in. The observations that Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, and all of the other writers of Seinfeld made felt so familiar they almost felt familial. We enjoyed the material they displayed on Seinfeld and Curb your Enthusiasm so much that it almost felt like they beat us to the punch. They were funnier than we are, of course, but their acute focus on the minutiae of life depressed us, because we thought that if we learned how to channel that affliction properly that could be us up there.

Writers capture Big Subjects of national and worldwide interest, but the focus of this site is on the little things that a little guy did on his way to the apothecary. When we’re watching one of the Big Guys, on one of the Big Network shows, interview a Big Subject who fascinates the world, for example, we obsess over the “staged walk” the production staff put together before the interview started. In the course of the interview, the production crew will cue the shot of the subject at work. We have no problem with that, as it displays the subject doing what they do. Yet, every interview segment interrupts their broadcast again with a shot of the man or woman of interest exiting their office and walking down the sidewalk. Why do we have to see this subject of interest walk away from his office, down a sidewalk? Who was the first producer to introduce this shot? What value does it bring to the broadcast? We can’t get past these quirks, and they distract us so much that we miss much of what the subject says following the staged walk, and in most cases, we’re not that interested in what the celebrity/news figure’s script says anyway.

We’re obsessed with these otherwise irrelevant forms of manipulation. Does the production crew believe that these staged walks might develop some sort of familiarity with the subject? “There he is walking out of his office on an otherwise average day, just like I do, and look Donna, he walks just like I do when I don’t know anyone is watching.”   

The eye-catching pieces on something familiar generate clicks, but most of the subjects that intrigue us are difficult to headline. Of the few eye-catching subjects we’ve covered, we’ve often found a less than traditional angle. Our M.O. for doing this abides by the rationale that it’s almost impossible to write anything new, different, or original. “Everything that you want to say has already been said, and that’s been said before too.”  

We analyze the other side, the less popular side, of what drives our ‘so niche they can’t find a niche’ characters to be so different. We prefer a critical view that attempts to analyze a subject from a more objective (some might say cynical) angle that scrutinizes the subject in a more comprehensive manner.

This guy that we’re talking to in our employer’s cafeteria obviously knows how to present us with his most photogenic side, we think while he jibber jabbers, but what’s in the other side? Is there another side? Is there a side that might surprise him if we dig deep enough? When we present this other side, we want to avoid being critical for the sole purpose of being critical. We all have less attractive sides, and some of us accidentally slip into the notion that the only noteworthy angle to cover is the negative. Quality coverage of the negative can be so exciting and provocative. It also has the feel of being more artistic, poignant, and meaningful. Yet, being negative for the sake of being negative can feel as tedious as focusing too much on the positives. If we do it right, the positive and negative characteristics of their other side, the less than photogenic side, should leak out in the course of the narrative. The presentation should feel comprehensive and organic.   

The characters we write about aren’t weird for the sake of being weird either. They’re not in visible pain, and they’re not manic-depressive. They’re just a little off. If we were to calculate them by degrees, with 90 degrees being the perfect angle, they might fall between 80 and 85 degrees. They’ve spent their lives a couple of degrees away from being normal, and we can see it when they accidentally flash their less than photogenic side. We consider it our job to capture that side, be it positive or negative.

If we met them on the street, we might consider them the most normal joe we’ve ever met. They have normal haircuts, a wage that permits them to purchase the latest fashionable clothing, and their company’s dental plan allows them to appear upper middle class with 2.5 kids in a two-bathroom house. They don’t say the wrong things either, for they’ve watched as much TV as we have. They know the bullet points we’ve established for identifying abnormal people, in other words, and they know how to assimilate. Those of us in the middle of the pack seek the fringe. Those on the fringe seek the middle of the pack, so no one considers us on the fringe looking in on the normal world. We want in, and an overwhelming percentage of us are not comfortable with exposing the eccentricities that have kept us on the outside looking in.

To find the insecure and overcompensating weird, we need to talk to them. We need to find a way to spend long hours with them, usually in an office space, sitting next to them, talking about our wives, our lives, and our lawn. Affectations of weird don’t comfort them. It sets off their spidey senses. So, we have to be weird too, and we are weird. We all have eccentricities, and when we share our eccentricities, they feel more comfortable sharing theirs. We take an “I give you me, so you’ll give me you” approach to our discussion.   

They’re guarded. They don’t know we’re writers patching together a quilt, because we don’t know that yet. We’re just talking to them. They’ve been mocked before, however, and if we are are going to have an enriching conversation with them, we are going to have to help them over their hurdles and through the multi-tiered mazes they’ve created for rubber neckers wanting to witness their eccentricities for comedy. This isn’t a Herculean task, however, because they love to talk about themselves. Most of us do. Most of us enjoy it so much that those in our familiar nucleus are no longer interested in our story. They’ve heard our stories so many times that we fear we might not be as interesting as we are. When fate puts us next to a curious person who is so interested in what we have to say, it’s exciting. We find ourselves saying things we wouldn’t even say in the comfort of our bedroom. Our spouses might cringe when we say such things, but we’ve had these thoughts bottled up for so long, and we’ve never had a person this interested before, and we don’t want to disappoint them for that would be disappointing.

Our subject might not know it, but we are carving them up, removing the extraneous fat from their testimonial, deleting the painstaking details involved in proving a point, deleting their tired repetition, and even deleting them from their story. It surprises them when we do that, for as embarrassing and revealing as their details were, at least they were their details, and they didn’t expect to see themselves deleted. They thought it was all about them. The talker has no problem laughing at themselves, of course, but to see their moment of crisis turned into a danceable number is just beyond the pale.

The difficulty involved in selling such strange, unconnected, and relatively unimportant pieces to the masses arrives soon after completion. “What do we do with this?” we ask after we’ve completed the numerous edits necessary. There’s no unifying theme or connection between the pieces. “What do we do with this?” ends up personifying the beauty of each standalone piece and resulting in their ultimate and final condemnation.  

While we’re in the midst of writing one of these pieces, we feel this might be the reason we ended up on this planet. We feel complete in a way we never have before. We think we’ve finally realized our purpose in life, and the extent of our talent, and we live on that artistic high for days. The bizarre experiences we’ve had with the subjects covered in these pieces have been so unique, and in some cases so profound, that we couldn’t believe that no one covered the subject before. After people laugh at the observations, they say one of two things, “I never thought of that before,” and “I don’t find the subject near as interesting as you do.”

They also ask, “What are you going to do with this?” We know, even before they ask that, that there is no book-length dissertation available. These are short pieces. There’s not nearly enough information or material for a book, and there’s no unifying theme or connection between the pieces. This ultimate “What do I do with this?” realization that our purpose in life, our raison d’etre, is nothing more than a (“B”) word prove quite painful.

The realization that we can be a (“B”) word, a blogger, is quite thrilling at first, until it becomes a condemnation. Over the course of a decade, and over 1,000 blogs, we might figure out how to master the art form that used to be called an essay, that others call narrative non-fiction, and most now call the blog. (The reader should not assume that I consider myself a master of this domain when I use the word, but that I’ve figured out how to communicate my thoughts in this form properly.) Once we achieve some level of satisfaction with the form, however, some of us start to think bigger. We assemble a greatest hits package of our best, most read blogs and send them over to a publisher. “What do you want me to do with this?” will be the theme of the door slamming shut in our faces, and don’t bother trying to fit your foot in that door, for it’s reinforced by the “No one wants to read a book of blogs!” sentiment that arose after its limitations were exposed by the path to losing 85 pounds and the funny things my cat did on Tuesday blogs. I’ve read reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon critique other authors of some of my favorite books condemn them by saying, “This reads like a blog.” They write that in the most negative way possible, and it feels like a tiny nail being driven into my spine.

***

I don’t know if it’s obvious by now, but I love writing these relatively inconsequential and irrelevant articles, and the fact that anyone (including you) might read one word I write sends warm and fuzzy messages to a very specific part of my brain that can lead to what they call a smile.

As proof of my unrequited passion, I now have an archive of over 1,000 blogs (some published, most shifted to the draft designation). As you read, go ahead and assume that I have obsessed over just about every word you read. I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time trying to figure out if ‘a’ or ‘the’ works best in a sentence, I’ve restructured some difficult passages numerous times, and I’ve completely overhauled most of the articles that I’ve published on this site. Some professional writers footnote an article with a note “Edited on [the date].” Are we supposed to do that? I wondered. If I were required to do that, just about every article on this site would have this notation.

Some writers believe we can over-edit an article. “Guilty!” I say with a raised hand. Some writers think that if we over-edit, we strip the spontaneous fun right out of an article. “Perhaps,” I say, “but I would rather strip the fun out of an article than have some fuzzy funny that the reader doesn’t understand because they’re not able to link the setup to the point, because they don’t know what is going on in my head.”  

I obsess over what I consider the fascinating and unique qualities of each piece. I love little more than tying such thoughts into a tight, cohesive, 1,500-2,000 word narrative, but most of these pieces are self-embodied dissertations. They’re blogs. So, enjoy them for what they are, as I apparently am not going to make one thin dime off them. Also, know, as you read this crass piece of self-promotion that I never wanted to write this. You forced it upon me with your stubborn refusal to read them. This post is on you!

How to Succeed in Writing VIII: Insatiable Curiosity


This is my letter to those of us who have an insatiable curiosity who haven’t achieved anything in the field yet. This is a letter to those who haven’t found their artistic voice just yet but know it’s somewhere between their favorite authors, and the thousands of other books they’ve read and them. Continue that search I say, and if you find it, follow it in any direction it commands. It might take you through some odd rabbit holes and dark forests, but all paths eventually lead back to you. It might not make much sense why we a particularly obscure piece of literature by some obscure author interests us, but I advise you to purchase it and see if it pays some artistic dividends.

I didn’t know any of this when I started, but I ached to express myself in some way. I didn’t know how to express myself, but the desire to do so was enough to guide me passed the heartbreaking critiques I received. I was not the prodigy I thought I was when I first started in other words. I was not a gifted intellect who just needed a canvas, but I was a curious sort who loved processing the data I saw in my otherwise boring days into creative non-fiction. When I started this venture, I tried to hard to spin the stories I had into something gargantuan, but I found the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth far more compelling. It took decades for me to realize that I was never going to be Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or James Patterson, and it took me a little longer than that to be okay with it. Thanks to a couple of articles and books, I discovered that I was a creative non-fiction writer before being creative non-fiction was cool, who reported on the facts, as opposed to an out and out artist who could spin an organic web. 

I knew I was different, but I didn’t know how to service those variables in a constructive manner. My worldview was different too, but I had no idea how to create a vehicle for it. This mystique I created of being a writer also became counterproductive over time. I wanted to create this world without doing the work. Every time I wrote, I received more evidence that I probably wasn’t as good as I thought.

Some of the people around me were quite generous in supplying notices to bolster this notion I had that I probably wasn’t as skilled as I thought I was. The one key characteristic that carried me through all that was that I had/have an insatiable curiosity. This level of curiosity can be embarrassing at times, as it can override good sense. When I’m involved in a relatively unique experience my curiosity gets the best of me, and while I might know how and why things work, on a certain level, some odd part of me wants to “rework them” with you to understand how we all arrived at that conclusion. It can be embarrassing, because most people provide the A-Z mechanics answer with that “of course” tone. I then share the “of course” tone in my answer, and both of us consider me a little dumber in the process.   

One element of the “of course” findings involved me wanting to be more interesting than I was, but I never quite made that leap. There is an A-Z checklist to being interesting, some have it, most don’t. How do you achieve it, in a room setting, at a Thanksgiving Day dinner? I compensated for my short comings by studying those around me. I developed a mental, A-Z checklist of those characteristics, but I was never able to employ them properly. 

“Why did you talk about that instead of this?” I would ask scintillating conversationalists. “Why would you think anyone would want to know how you roll out a sleeping bag, in a tent, while on a camping expedition? Everyone considered it hilarious, I know, but why did you think anyone would? Why did you say the in the third sentence of your presentation, instead of the more common the? Is it all about how we tell such stories, or provide a hilarious retort? Why do we react differently to two people who say almost the exact same thing?” Some people might add to such a story, others might take a leap from that joke to add one of their own, but I would study and later interrogate the storyteller to try to understand the process of joke telling, storytelling, and what separated them from those who can’t tell a joke or a story as well. I understood it on a macro level, but those finite details of being interesting plagued me. What’s the difference between Jerry and Lou and Daniel and Ron? It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that Daniel has simply checked out. I don’t know what roads he’s been down, but somewhere along the way, he determined that no one is interested in what he has to say. He gave up ever trying to be engaging. He just knew he wasn’t, and for reasons inherent to his nature, he knew he never would. Most entertaining and engaging people don’t put a lot of thought into it, they just have fun, but others learn the process as they go. I am perpetually frustrated by my separation from those who are entertaining, and I discovered that in the process of trying to understand the “it” factor they have, I was trying to understand more about myself.  

I didn’t do any of this for the purpose of developing high quality material, it’s more a byproduct of it. I am curious to a fault, and I write that word fault with the idea that some people who know me well consider me stupid, naive, and stupidly naive. When they explain it to me, I feel stupid and naive, because on some level I knew how it worked, but there is this sense that I want it reworked for me, so I can understand it again, more thoroughly, down to the grains of construction.  

How deep is our sense of curiosity? How deep into the organic grain of construction are we? What do we do with the information we find? Most of it is not useful, in an artistic sense, but organic curiosity often leads to aimless fascination that just might produce a grain of inspiration.   

It’s in these grains of construction that I discovered an individualistic interpretation of what it means to be a writer. A lot of new, and longtime, writers write, speak, and hypothesize about the process of writing. We speak about having post-it notes all around them to capture the ideas of the moment, or a moment, before they forget them. We talk about the tools we use to create, the mood we need for proper creation, the setting, the mindset, and everything that we’ve defined as the characteristics of being a writer, but how do we transport all of that into an interesting idea? 

The best route to developing interesting ideas is to have the most boring childhood imaginable. I don’t know how boring someone else might view my childhood, but I can report that I spent vast amounts of hours doing nothing. With the advent of cell phones, this might be a thing of the past, but I spent those hours doing nothing but thinking about stuff. I rewrote and editing real conversations I had thousands of ways, and I spent so many hours fantasizing that I became the adult and the storyteller I am today.  

Nothing replaces the human mind, it’s the best device for creative thought ever invented. We shouldn’t need post-it notes, recording devices, or anything more than a well-honed brain. We record that which is memorable, or noteworthy, material. If it is, in fact, noteworthy material, it will stick. It will gestate in your brain, until you have a completed idea of that which you have experienced. In the curiosity regarding the organic grain of construction, the creative mind will eventually understand as well as, if not better than, those who constructed it, for the purpose of rewriting, or reconstructing it with a creative spin. 

james-joyceAre you Kerouac or Joyce?  One style of writing that new writers, and complicated artistes, laud is the Jack Kerouac and James Joyce style of writing called stream-of-consciousness (SC) writing. SC writing is a style of writing that plays out exactly as it sounds: An author sits down and composes 300-700 pages of prose in a matter of months. The SC author does little to no editing and revising, because in the strictest definition of SC writing there are no mistakes in a contextual or conceptual sense. “One error is a mistake, two are jazz,” some say Miles Davis once said. Contextual mistakes, according to those who pursue this form of writing, and the painter Pablo Picasso, are subconscious leads. What could be seen as an errant stroke by some was something to build on for Picasso, Davis, and Joyce and Kerouac when it came to writing. They saw mistakes as the subconscious guiding them down a path they hadn’t consciously considered before. Both of these writers were forced to fight off editors and publishers in the belief that their works should remain as is.

kerouac“I write to entertain myself,” those who adhere to the Joyce/Kerouac style say. “If anyone else is entertained, that’s gravy.” The reason we started writing in the first place was to see if we could take all of our influences and combine them with our inner voices, to achieve stories that would entertain us. Too much editing and revising takes the spontaneity right out of an artistic creation, and trying to make my pieces relatable to all is impossible, so why would I spend too much time trying to correct conceptual and contextual mistakes?

Have you ever read James Joyce’s Ulysses? How about Finnegans Wake? Most normal humans, of adequate intelligence, need a guide to help them understand all of the references and allusions Joyce makes in these works. All of Joyce’s jokes and provocations were “in-house” references that he understood, and that you can understand too…with a reference guide that’s almost as lengthy, but they’re not enjoyable books as a standalone. No one will know what the heck you’re talking about, in other words, when you write in Joyce’s SC manner. You will know, as Joyce and those that lived in Ireland at the time knew, but your reader won’t know. You will only frustrate them. “Can’t you see that A led to B, and C was the result?” Oh ok, they say, now I get it. As frustrated as you were with them, it wasn’t their fault that they didn’t get it. It was yours, and you need to edit and revise more.

Most new writers should be advised to follow the editing and revising school of thought for just this reason. This line of thought suggests that a story matures in the editing process. It suggests that the framework of a story can be borne in the stream-of-consciousness (SC) stage, but that the marrow of a story is created when we go back and live through the story again and again, until we reach the readability stage. This theory also suggests that editing and revising stories gives the author greater objectivity than he can achieve in the creation process. Objectivity gives the author the chance to attempt to read the story in the manner a reader may read their story. It gives the author some distance from the relatively narrow position one is in while creating the piece, and they can correct some of the errors of flow and characterization that may not be apparent in the creative process.

We “editing and revising” writers find it hard to believe that Kerouac and Joyce were able to develop their story, their characters, their pace, and their setting on the fly in the manner they suggest. It just doesn’t seem feasible—no matter how brilliant they may be—that they could make all of the connections, and all of the asides mesh well into a story on the fly, but if you believe the Kerouac myth—that Kerouac created—he wrote his classic On the Road in a drug-frenzied three weeks on a scroll of paper. How much of this myth is true should be left up to historians to debate. What cannot be debated, however, is the fact that Kerouac and Joyce submitted relatively raw pieces of work that achieved historical status. What also cannot be debated is that—if everything they’ve said about their process is true—they should be held out as the exception to the rule that editing and revising are the keys to achieving a complete and readable story.

Most of us are not a “Man of Golden Words”, to borrow a phrase from lyricist Andrew Wood. Most of us write stupid things, bad scenes, flat characters, sloppy sentences, too much setting, unnecessary asides, and our flow isn’t quite right the first time through. We also write “great scenes” that appear foolish in revision. Most of us need advice, a second reader, and a vocal read-through. Most of us are not spontaneous, artistic geniuses, and our work could use a lot of sprucing and pruning. In this refutation, I go back to the organic construction of the grain. I believe that writing a brilliant line, as Hemingway would, requires numerous rewrites, reworking, and shape shifting. If I rework a line seven different ways, I might eventually produce enough material to isolates the germ and protect the interiority of my idea. If you are an artistic genius—and I’m not one of those who claims that no one is, out of spite for not being one—God love you. I wish I was one who could spontaneously create something that appears so simple without having to work so hard at it.

Editing and revising are definitely not the fun part of artistic creation. They are, for the most part, tedious activities that require training and discipline, and training and discipline are not the artistic principles that complicated, non-writing writers want to endure when they think about, talk about, and write about the process of their creations. The Joyce/Kerouac process appeals to them, because it makes them feel more like an artistic genius. Writing should be about writing, they are likely to say. It should be spontaneous, so that it’s still fun, and when they can’t spontaneously create, they tell people they have writer’s block. Writer’s block is a fundamental element of the complicated, non-writer’s writing life, and they all have their processes to help them out of it. True writers, in this writer’s humble opinion, never experience writer’s block. They may have moments in which they are more inspired than others, but to be unable to think of anything to write just seems impossible to those of us who have written so much that we’re now disciplined enough—after hours of exhaustive training—to always write something.

Fruit and Flowers: On that note, for the rest of us who don’t receive divine inspiration for artistic creations, there is a cure: “Paint fruit and flowers!” Flipping through various collections of art, I was surprised to find so many mundane and simple creations by artistic geniuses. Flip through any Van Gogh collection, Picasso collection, or Matisse collection and you’ll find them—relatively boring and mundane paintings of the sky, shrubs, trees, fruit, and flowers. I was shocked at how many of these paintings there were in the anthologies of these artists. Why would such talented artists waste their time painting such seemingly benign and boring paintings? Answer: They were keeping their artistic muscles taut and honed. They were learning the art of using color and contrast, and prominence and shadowing. They were finessing their God-given talent. They were becoming artists, in other words, and they were getting better, and when divine inspiration eventually struck they would be ready for it. Some of the complicated, non-writing writers have this Hollywood image of writers that tells them they need to be inspired to write. These writers know that their best material will occur when the Danube River is just outside their hotel’s window sill at a time when the first storks make their appearance in Petrovaradin. These writers know they can’t be too happy, or too sad, and that they need the finest Colombian coffee scents in their nose to receive divine inspiration. A drafty writing room with Gatorade and Diet Sunkist is just not conducive to inspired writing. They’ll tell you that they have writer’s block, when you ask them what they’re writing.  “Well,” I want to scream at them. “What are you doing about it? Try writing Fruit and Flower stories!”

“That’s easy for you to say,” will be the theme of the “complicated” writer’s reply, “but I can’t write when I’m not inspired.” If I were to see something they wrote that was at the artistic genius level, I would have no ammunition in these conversations, but they’re usually just boobs like me who want to purport some sort of artistic genius persona. They’re usually not writing anything at all. They’re usually just lazy, complicated, non-writing writers. “Write something stupid,” I want to say. “There are fruit and flowers everywhere. You don’t need to write Crime and Punishment every time out, but if you continue to write your Crime and Punishment may fall out from between the cracks.”

Therein lays the key to great writing, in my humble opinion, for if you continue to fertilize the seed with the dung of creating so many pieces that are not worthwhile, you might eventually create a flower. Others (most) will never produce a Ulysses, a World According to Garp or a Crime and Punishment style flower, and they may become so frustrated that they don’t want to continue. Those people probably shouldn’t continue. This isn’t for everyone. It’s for the incredibly talented individuals, and those with incredible amounts of perseverance.   

This may seem antithetical to everything I’ve written over the course of these How to Succeed in Writing blogs, but the question is a vital component to writing fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, and everything in between. Do you enjoy writing, expression, and artistic creation, or do you want to be famous? Have you created a number of good works, but none of them are of the highest quality? How do you handle that? Do you feel like an utter failure, or are you aching for more? If you’re a complicated artiste that hasn’t achieved the fame you believe you should’ve at this point, you may want to give up. Maybe you just weren’t meant to be a writer in the first place. It’s a very important crossroads for you. If you have the temerity to push ahead, there are a number of things that you can do to keep ‘it’ all shiny and honed until you receive divine inspiration.