Fellow workers in the field know the practice is not easy. They notice movements and deft accomplishments as well as slips and defects the wider public doesn’t. They’re also rarely moved by easy though flashy flourishes and scorn the con-artist and cheat.
I’m not referring solely to other writers or artists, either. Watch a gymnast evaluate a meet or a figure-skater a competition. Even a software writer or electrician. Or a surgical nurse.
That said, when I’m drafting and revising intensely, I’m also more appreciative of qualities in the writing of others. At the best is an admiration of something I lack, a time for humility and gratitude rather than jealousy or envy.
It’s work, after all. Which is why published pages are called “works.”
Given a choice, the rational decision would be to browse through great pages already given to us by others. Browse, as sheep or cattle – OK, I joke, but the fact is I seldom find what most calls me.
Writing is work, especially when you’re already working a regular full-time job somewhere else. Why else where there those periods in my life where I rose at four a.m. to write and revise before going in to the office? How many others do likewise? At what personal cost to their lives and growth?
Real work, I’ll contend, is the practice of being fully alive. Aware. Totally there, at times.
Some people charge up and then release it in an extended explosion, as Kerouac did in his fiction.
I, in contrast, see it as a balance, between inspiration – breath within – and exhalation – the atmosphere without.
Creativity? No, God creates.
Man discovers, cultivates, nurtures, at best.
Practicing an art (and likely much more) means wrestling with power – including, in the Apostle Paul’s phrase, the “powers and principalities.” Powers of destruction, on one hand, and sustenance, on the other. Destruction that can, as seen too many times, include the artist. Hence, the fascination with Faust. With madness. Alcoholism. And on.
Self-absorption and inflated self-importance. We hazard much, often without the slightest awareness of the risks afoot. In Satan’s dominion over “the world,” which is the realm of the arts, or in Eastern thought, the traps of Maya, that spider web of worldly attraction and deadly illusion. Either way, cause to be wary.
Self-discipline, route to true freedom, strips away false attachments, barriers, chaff.
Writing involves observing my own shifting mind while opening to manifold living energies around me. It means simplifying, following unexpected leadings and openings, sometimes to dead ends, other times to unanticipated ranges.
Some of my fellowship at the time would have argued that’s not where I should be. Some were praying for me through this period. The kind of work that once would have had me read out of Meeting. Is this acceptable activity for a free Gospel minister? All I can do is explore the Truth given to me.
“We Quakers read only true things.” Distractions from worship? Traps of the flesh? So where does fiction fall?
The piece goes its own way: a living organism: readers, editors see it differently from you. What you would cut they love. What you love they see as sore thumb.
Versus becoming so rarified we lose all sense of joy and delight. The danger of Plainness or strictness, that it suffocates personality, makes us so humiliated we cannot move forward in the Holy Spirit to perform bold action.
My poetry has been influenced by the craft of headline writing and news reporting more than I care to admit. The trade paid the rent, provided a point of resistance in my personal endeavors. The Political Science Fiction I once envisioned has since come together in real history as a horrid reality.
Not that we’re anywhere near done yet.